Philpot Comments

Genesis 5:24

"And Enoch walked with God." Ge 5:24

 

The chief way whereby we walk with God is by faith, and not by sight. Abraham walked in this way. Unbelief severs the soul from God. There is no communion between God and an infidel. An unbelieving heart has no fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ; but a believing heart has communion with him. It is by faith that we have fellowship with God and his dear Son; and you will find that just in proportion to the strength or weakness of your faith is your walking with God. If you have faith in blessed exercise, as you look to the atoning blood, you find that you can walk with God; you can pour out your heart before him, tell him all your concerns, spread before him the inmost movements of your mind, and look to him for peace and consolation.

 

But when your faith is weak, when it gives way under trial, and cannot take hold of the promises, then communion is interrupted; there is no longer a walking with God. But in proportion as faith is strong, so there is a walking with God in sweet agreement; for faith keeps eyeing the atonement; faith looks not so much to sin, as to salvation from sin; at the way whereby sin is pardoned, overcome, and subdued. So it is by faith, and in proportion to our faith, that we walk together with God.

Genesis 8:9

"But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark." Ge 8:9

 

What a restless being is a tempted child of God! How unable he often is even to rest locally, to take his chair, and sit quietly by his fire-side! Like Noah's dove, he can find no rest for the sole of his foot on the floating carcases of a ruined world. It is recorded of the prisoners, who in the first French revolution, were awaiting in their dungeons the summons to the dread tribunal of blood, that some passed nearly the whole of their time in walking up and down their cells. So sometimes under trials and temptations, we pace up and down the room as if we sought to dissipate the exercise of our minds by the exercise of our bodies; or rush into the streets and fields to pour the heart out in sighs and groans, the restless mind acting and reacting upon the body.

 

And as an exercised child of God often cannot rest physically, so cannot he rest spiritually. He cannot rest in his own righteousness, nor in a sound creed, nor in a form of godliness, nor in the opinions of men, nor in anything that springs from or centers in the creature. There is always something uneasy, either in himself or in the ground on which he would repose. Sometimes it is strewed with thorns and briers; sometimes beset with sharp and rugged rocks. And yet, but for these restless, uneasy feelings, how many even of the Lord's own family would settle down short of gospel rest! Some would settle down in false religion; others in the world; some would make a god of their own righteousness; and others, like the foolish virgins, would securely sleep while their lamp was burning out.

 

But there is that restless, painful exercise where the life and grace of God are, that the soul cannot, if it would, settle down in any rest but that of God's own providing. "There remains, therefore, a rest to the people of God." That rest is Christ; the blood, righteousness, love, and grace of the Lamb of God.

Genesis 18:14

"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Ge 18:14

 

The Lord will make us feel that though his arm is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear, yet he is to be enquired of. He is indeed a God that works wonders; apparent impossibilities are nothing with him; he has but to speak and it is done. But he will make us know his power by making us feel our weakness. He will often keep at a great distance, and for a long time, in order to make us value his presence. He will make us sink very low that he may lift us very high. He will make us taste the bitterness of the gall and wormwood of sin that we may know the sweetness of manifested pardon. He will teach us to abhor ourselves in our own sight, and loathe ourselves for our abominations, before we shall see and know ourselves washed in his blood, clothed in his righteousness, and to stand before him without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

 

The Lord in one sense is easy of access upon his throne of grace, but in another very hard to be got at. He invites his dear people to come and spread their needs before him; he encourages them with a thousand promises; he says in our text, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" But he will make us set a due value upon his visitations; they shall not be given to us very easily or very frequently that we may not hold them cheap. It is not "ask and have" immediately. We have to learn what sin cost our dear Redeemer; we have to see the holiness and majesty of God; we have to learn that though mercy is free, and grace superabounds over the aboundings of sin, yet it must be got at after many a struggle, many a cry, many a sigh and groan, and many a fervent petition; that though all fullness dwells in the Lord the Lamb, and he invites us to come and take of the water of life freely, yet it is guarded on every side by many things that would drive us back.

 

And thus he teaches us to put due value upon his grace, upon the visitations of his countenance and the words of his lips. They cost the dear Redeemer the deepest agonies of body and soul, and sufferings of which no finite mind can form a conception; and, therefore, are not to be given out without teaching us to know through what channel they came, nor what it cost the blessed Son of God to give out of his fullness those supplies of grace by which he enriches our need.

Genesis 32:26

"I will not let you go, except you bless me." — Ge 32:26

 

It is encouraging to the Lord's people as they are from time to time placed in similar circumstances of trial, exercise, perplexity, sorrow or distress with Jacob, to see the blessed result of his wrestling with the angel. He crosses the ford of Jabbok all weakness; he re-crosses it all strength. He leaves his family, and wrestles alone, a fainting Jacob; he returns to them a prevailing Israel. He goes to the Lord in an agony of doubt and alarm, fearing every moment lest he and all that was dear to him would be swept off from the face of the earth; he returns with the Lord's blessing in his soul, with the light of the Lord's countenance lifted up upon him.

 

And is not this instance recorded for the instruction and consolation of the Lord's living family? Are they not from time to time in circumstances experimentally which resemble Jacob's circumstances literally? Have they not similar difficulties and similar necessities? And does not the Lord from time to time raise up in their heart the same faith to lay hold? the same importunity to keep hold? And shall He who gave Jacob such a merciful deliverance—shall He who has recorded in his holy word this remarkable event in Jacob's life for the edification and instruction of his people in all times—hear Jacob, and not hear them? It is derogatory to the sympathizing "Man of Sorrows;" it is treason against the Majesty of heaven to believe, that a child of God in similar circumstances can go to the Lord in a similar way and not get a similar blessing.

 

"And he said, I will not let you go, unless you bless me." Ge 32:26

 

What a strange intermixture there is in a believing heart of everything to cast down and yet of everything to encourage! How there is everything on the one side to perplex, to confuse, and put the soul to its wits' end, and yet how on the other there is everything to hold up its head, strengthen its faith, support its hope, and encourage it to hold on to the last gasp! Now this is that very trial of faith which is more precious than of gold that perishes, for faith is not a dead, sluggish grace, and is never more active than when it is being tried as with fire. You cannot give up from what you have felt and experienced, for that is the grand evidence, the persuasion that you have the life of God in your soul, and compared with that how worthless and valueless all other things seem to be in your eyes, because to give that up is to give up all your hope.

 

Here, then, is the grand mystery, to hang and hold on, to hold out, and not allow oneself to be cast away, but the more the Lord would seem to put us away, the more to cling to him. Was not this the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman, who, so to speak, would not take "No" for an answer? or, like the faith of Ruth, "Entreat me not to leave you?" or, like the faith of Hannah, when "she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord and wept sore?" Does not this faith resemble that of Heman's, when he cried out, "Will you show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise you?" and that of Asaph, when his feet were almost gone, and his steps had well-near slipped?

 

Thus the more the Lord seems to put us away, the more we cling to him. The viler we are, the more we need his grace; and the very magnitude of our sins only makes us hang more upon his atoning blood and cling more closely to his word and promises as suitable to our case. Nor will anything induce us to give up our hope or relinquish our hold of his mercy.

Genesis 49:22

"Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel." Ge 49:22-24

 

One would have thought that Joseph being a fruitful vine could have looked with complacency, almost with holy scorn, upon these archers who shot at him, but it was not so; "they severely grieved him." To be sold by his own brethren into Egypt; the dreams and visions God had given him to be derided; to be cast into prison as an ungodly man through the very person who was tempting him to ungodliness, and there to be neglected and forsaken; how these archers had shot their arrows against his bosom, and severely grieved him!

 

It was because he had the fear of God, because his feelings were tender, that the arrows found a place. Had he had a bosom of steel, had he had a heart of stone, the arrows would have fallen off blunted and pointless; but it was because he had tender feelings, a living conscience, warm affections, godly fear, and a work of grace upon his soul, that he presented a tender spot for these arrows to stick in; therefore the archers not only "hated him, but shot at him, and severely grieved him."

 

But did they prove his destruction? Did any one drain his life blood? Did he sink and die like a wounded deer? Did he fall upon the plain and gasp out his forlorn life? No; "But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel." He then had a bow; he could shoot too. And what was his bow? and how did he direct the arrow? He picked up the arrows that were shot at him, or rather he took them out of his own wounded bosom; and instead of aiming these shafts against those who had so severely grieved him, he shot upward; he launched his arrows towards the throne of the Majesty on high; he turned their bitter shafts into prayers, supplications, and petitions.

 

Thus the very arrows shot at him he turned into petitions with which to approach the throne of God. He drew his bow even up to the heaven of heavens; and that is what you should do. Never return evil for evil; never return railing for railing. When you are shot at by the archers, do not shoot at them again. Take your arrows and bring them before the throne; present your feelings wounded as they are, your groans and sighs, with your warm petitions, and spread them before God, who hears and answers prayer; and you will find the benefit and blessing of it.

 

The world will beat you at shooting if you shoot at them. They can use language that you cannot. A man of birth and education, drawn into collision with a street ruffian, cannot bandy words with him; he must pass on; he would soon be beaten in the strife of words. So you must never shoot arrow against arrow with those archers who severely grieve you. You have a tender conscience; you have the fear of God; you weigh your words; you know what will grieve your mind when it comes back upon you, and you are therefore sparing of your speech. Cease from that war; return not a single arrow, let them shoot away, take their arrows, direct your bow upward, turn them all into prayers and supplications, and in due time sweet answers of mercy and peace will come into your bosom.

 

Thus Joseph's bow "abode in strength," and all their arrows neither struck his bow out of his hand, nor broke it asunder. He could shoot as well as they, but not in the same way nor at the same object. We see, then, Joseph's fruitfulness; we see the source of it; we see the persecutions his soul was grieved by; and we see the final victory that he gained. God of his infinite mercy lead our souls into the same blessed track, apply his truth to our hearts, that our bow may abide in strength, and that the arms of our hands may be made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.

Genesis 49:24

"His bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." —Ge 49:24

 

Our ancestors, you know, were celebrated bowmen. Victories were won at Cressy and Agincourt by the English cavalry, who were skilled in the use of the bow. Latimer says, in a sermon preached before the king, that no man could be a good archer who did not learn from his boyhood; and the custom he tells us was for the father to put his hands upon the son's hands, to teach him how to shoot, and throw the whole strength of his body into the bow. When the boy drew the bow, it was not the strength of his own arm that drew the string, nor was it the keenness of his eye that directed the arrow to the mark. The child appeared to draw the bow and to direct the arrow; but the hand of the father was upon the hand of the child, and the eye of the father was guiding the eye of the child; thus though the child seemed to draw the bow, it was the strength of the father that really pulled the string.

 

So in the case of Joseph to whom our text refers, "the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." God put his hands upon the hands of Joseph, drew the bow for him, directed the arrow, and hit effectually the mark. Apply this to your experience. When you pray effectually, it is not you that pray; it is the Spirit of God who prays in you; for he helps our infirmities, and intercedes for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. When you believe, it is the Spirit of God that works faith in you; when you hope, it is the Spirit of God that produces hope in you; when you love, it is the Spirit of God that sheds abroad love in you; it is the arms of his hands that are put upon your hands, and they are made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.

Exodus 15:26

"I am the Lord who heals you." — Ex 15:26

 

How does God heal the diseases of his people? He heals them chiefly by subduing them; for in this life they are never thoroughly healed. The promise runs—"He will subdue our iniquities" (Mic 7:19). To subdue them is to restrain their power. Thus he sees one suffering under the power of unbelief. He gives him faith—this subdues his unbelief. Here is another poor languid patient, dying of exhaustion—he gives him strength. Here is a third mourning under his corruptions—he gives a drop of his blood to purge his conscience, and a taste of his love to warm his heart. He sees a fourth crying under the strong assaults of Satan—with one look Satan flies and the soul is set free. Thus with infinite wisdom blended with infinite love and power, he passes on from bed to bed of every sick patient, administering health wherever he goes. This blessed Physician has a remedy for every disease, and the remedy is always felt to be exactly suitable to the exigency of the case. It goes, so to speak, at once to the right spot; it heals the malady wherever it be, and whatever it be, just in the right way, and just at the right time. O then how good it is to bring all our soul diseases before the Lord! In a case of bodily sickness or painful complaint we uncover freely our malady to a physician whom we can trust; we tell him every circumstance and disclose every symptom. So should we go to the Lord with all our soul diseases, tell him all our complaints, unfold to him all our sorrows, and fully and freely lay before him everything that burdens the conscience, pains the mind, and distresses the soul, looking and waiting until he speaks the word, and every malady is healed.

Exodus 25:22

"I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant." Ex 25:22

 

What heart can conceive or tongue describe the blessedness of this heavenly truth that at all times, under all circumstances, and in all places there is provided a mercy seat, a throne of grace, at which the God of all grace and a sensible sinner may freely meet without hindrance, if indeed there be any spirit of prayer in the petitioner's breast? As no place, so no circumstance is too dark for his eye not to see; as no covering is too thick, so no circumstance is too obscure for his sight not to pierce through—"Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? says the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? says the Lord." So felt the Psalmist—"If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yes, the darkness hides not from you; but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to you."

By night upon our bed; by day in our various occupations; in the crowded streets or in the lonely fields; surrounded by the ungodly or in company with the Lord's people, we may, if the Lord the Spirit enables us, lift up a hearty sigh, utter a confessing word, and pour forth one simple desire. This may not to some seem to be sufficient to warrant the gracious fulfillment of the promise, "There will I meet with you;" and yet every relief thereby obtained proves that it is so; for wherever or whenever we get any sense of the Lord's presence or of the Lord's power, any intimation that his eye is upon us for good, and his ear listening to our cry, be the prayer short or long, be it uttered on our knees or sighed out on our feet, be it in the quiet room or the bustling street, we have in it that evidence which each believer knows best in the sweet experience of it, that God does fulfill his own gracious word, "There will I meet with you."

"And there I will meet with you, and I will commune with you from above the mercy seat." Ex 25:22

 

After a child of God has enjoyed something of the goodness and mercy of God revealed in the face of his dear Son, he may wander from his mercies, stray away from these choice gospel pastures, and get into a waste-howling wilderness, where there is neither food nor water; and yet, though half-starved for poverty, has in himself no power to return. But what has brought him for the most part into this state? Forgetfulness of the mercy seat; and as the Lord meets his people only there, a gradual estrangement from him.

 

But in due time the Lord seeks out this wandering sheep, and the first place he brings him to is the mercy seat, confessing his sins and seeking mercy. Faithful to his own word, once more the Lord meets him there; and O what a meeting! A penitent backslider and a forgiving God! O what a meeting! A guilty wretch drowned in tears, and a loving Father falling upon his neck and kissing him! O what a meeting for a poor, self-condemned wretch, who can never mourn too deeply over his sins, and yet finds grace super-abounding over all its aboundings, and the love of God bursting through the cloud, like the sun upon an April day, and melting his heart into contrition and love! 

But this is not all. The Lord is pleased sometimes to show his dear people the evils of their heart, to remove by his Spirit and grace that veil of pride and self-righteousness which hides so much of sinful SELF from our eyes, and to discover what is really in us—the deep corruptions which lurk in our depraved nature, the filth and folly which is part and parcel of ourselves, the unutterable baseness and vileness so involved in our very being. Now this in itself would drive us from the throne of grace. "Can God dwell here?" is the sinner's feeling. "Can I be possessed of the fear of God when such thoughts and feelings overflow my mind, and seem to fill me as if with the very dregs of hell?" Yet still he is drawn from time to time to the throne of grace to confess these sins before the mercy seat, for he cannot, dare not, stay away from it; and again God is true to his word—"There will I meet with you." There once more he reveals a sense of his mercy and goodness, and once more shows that, whatever the sinner be in himself, he is faithful to his own promise.

Exodus 33:16

"How shall it be known that I and your people have found grace in your sight?" Ex 33:16

 

Grace is always "found." It is not earned, nor merited, nor worked into; but it is found; and if a man never "found" it, he never had it. It is stumbled upon, so to speak, as the Lord sets forth in the parable of the man who found the treasure hid in a field (Mt 13:44). The man was not thinking about the treasure. He was, we may suppose, ploughing in the field. He had no idea that there was gold beneath the clods. But he finds it all on a sudden, in the most unexpected and unlooked-for manner, and for joy thereof "goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field." So it is with the way in which grace is found. It comes so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and so sweetly into a man's soul, that when it comes he is like a man who has found something which he had no conception of until he found it. He had no idea what it was, nor how it was to be got, nor whence it was to be had; but when it came into his heart he found that he had a treasure there. The treasure which the man found in the field was much sweeter to him, because unexpectedly found, than if he had earned it penny by penny. Its coming in so peculiar a way, from the surprise and joy produced, doubled and tripled the value of the money. Thus, when grace visits the earth in an unexpected moment, and drops down like the dew of heaven into the soul, it is valued much more than if laboriously earned penny by penny. The sweetness of the gift is doubled by its unexpectedness, and by its coming in such a marvelous and miraculous manner.

Numbers 6:24

"The Lord bless you." Nu 6:24

 

The key to the words, "The Lord bless you," is, I believe, to be found in Eph 1:3—"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ;" for the blessings prayed for in our text would seem to be chiefly spiritual blessings. Not that we are to think lightly of temporal favors. They are left-hand blessings, if not right-hand mercies; they are gifts to be thankful for on earth, if not graces that take to heaven; provision for the perishing body, if not food for the immortal soul. Health, strength, such a measure of worldly goods as shall keep the wolf from the door, and enable us to owe no man anything but love; children growing up to be a comfort to their parents; a kind and affectionate partner; warm and faithful friends; an untarnished name; and a little provision for those dear and near to us, that their tears over our body may not be doubly embittered by poverty and dependence; who shall say that these are not blessings for which God is to be praised? Viewed by the eye of faith, blessings in providence come down from heaven steeped in mercy.

 

And yet how short, oh, how infinitely short do these temporal blessings, which perish in the using, fall of spiritual blessings, which endure for evermore! A striking proof of this is that when we are privileged to draw near to the throne of grace with some measure of faith and feeling, the heart's desire is wholly towards spiritual blessings; and the eye of the soul is so wholly and solely fixed upon them, that there is scarcely left place either in the heart or lips to ask for any other.

 

But look at the personality of the blessing asked—"The Lord bless YOU." And yet when the high priest pronounced the blessing he did not fix his eye upon, nor did he address his speech to, any one individual. It was spoken to the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel; and yet the words were so framed as though the blessing were for each individual. Such are God's blessings—personal, individual. Gracious souls, sometimes, when they have heard the word with any particular sweetness or power, say, "It was all for me." Well, it was all for you; but are you the only "me" in the place? Might not someone sitting by your side say, "It was all for me?" Don't think that one alone is to be blessed, and all others excluded. There is enough for each, and there is enough for all.

 

But there is something so singularly appropriating in the mercy of God when brought into the heart, that it seems as though it were for me, and for me alone. But here is the blessedness of the mercies of God, of the riches of his grace and glory—that one having a part does not exclude the other. It is not like a natural family, where each successive child seems to withdraw a portion of the inheritance from the others; so that, if they had the covetous feelings of grown-up people, the elder might well say to the new-born babe, "We don't want you, you little robber! Why are you come to take portions with us?" It does not narrow the heavenly inheritance that there are so many to enjoy it; if it did, it would narrow God himself, for God is their inheritance, and in God is enough to satisfy myriads of elect angels as well as myriads of ransomed men. There need be no envy in the things of God; it is excluded by the freeness, fullness, and richness of God's love.

 

"The Lord keep you." Nu 6:24

 

How we need the Lord to keep us! We stand upon slippery places. Snares and traps are laid for us in every direction. Every employment, every profession in life, from the highest to the lowest, has its special temptations. Snares are spread for the feet of the most illiterate as well as the most highly cultivated minds; nor is there anyone, whatever his position in life may be, who has not a snare laid for him, and such a snare as will surely prove his downfall if God does not keep him.

 

When Elisha sat upon the mountain and his servant was distressed lest his master should be taken away by violence, the prophet prayed the Lord to open his servant's eyes. What did he then see? Chariots and horses of fire all around about the mountain guarding the prophet. Perhaps if the Lord were to open our eyes as he opened the eyes of Elisha's servant, we might see devils where he saw angels, see ourselves surrounded by Beelzebub and his legions, as the eyes of the servant saw Michael with the flaming hosts of heaven.

 

Well, then, may it be the desire of our soul, "The Lord keep me"—keep me in his providence, keep me by his grace; keep me by planting his fear deep in my soul, and maintaining that fear alive and effectual in my heart; keep me waking, keep me sleeping; keep me by night, keep me by day; keep me at home, keep me abroad; keep me with my family, and keep me with my friends; keep me in the world, and keep me in the Church; the Lord keep me, according to his promise, every moment; keep me by his Spirit and grace with all the tenderness implied in his words, "O keep me as the apple of your eye!" My friends, you can know little of your own heart, little of Satan's devices, little of the snares spread for your feet, unless you feel how deeply you need this blessing—"The Lord keep you." And he will, for we read of the righteous, that they are kept "by the power of God through faith unto salvation;" and that "He will keep the feet of his saints."

Numbers 6:25

"The Lord make his face shine upon you." Nu 6:25

 

The allusion here seems, to my mind, to be to the sun. Sometimes the natural sun has not risen; and the world must need be dark if the sun be still beneath the horizon. So with many gracious souls; it is darkness with them, midnight darkness, Egyptian darkness, darkness to be felt, because at present neither the Day-star has appeared, nor the Sun of righteousness risen upon them with healing in his wings. It will and must be dark with them until the Sun rises.

 

But sometimes after the sun has risen we see not his face—clouds—deep, dark clouds, may obscure the face of that bright luminary throughout the whole day, and we may not get a single ray from him through the whole period that he is above the visible horizon. So, many of the Lord's family, after the Sun has risen upon them in the morning of their spiritual life, may pass, perhaps, much of their subsequent time in the dark shadow, until perhaps at evening tide there is light, and a departing ray gilds the dying pillow.

 

But again, there are sometimes days when mists drive rapidly across the face of the bright orb of day, and yet occasionally he peeps through the breaking clouds. And is not this, in some measure, an emblem of the way in which the Sun of righteousness is continually obscured by the mists and fogs which spring up out of our unbelieving heart, hidden from view by the doubts and fears that, like the vapors of the valley, spread themselves, to our view, over his beauteous face?

 

Yet there are times when he gleams through the clouds and disperses the mists. When the Lord is pleased to bless the soul and shine upon it with any sweet manifestation, then he breaks in through the dark clouds, but they gather again. It is not in Christian experience one bright summer day. We do not live in Australia or Peru, where clouds and mists rarely obscure the face of the sun. Our spiritual climate is humid, our inward latitude is the chilling north.

 

"The Lord make his face shine upon you." Is the Lord, then, sovereign in these matters? Can we not lift up our hand and remove the cloud? We have as much power to stretch forth our hand and sweep away the mists that obscure the Sun of righteousness, as we have power with the same hand to sweep away a London fog. How this puts the creature into his right place! And the creature is only in his right place when he is nothing, and God is all in all. How blessed to see the face of the Father; and to see it shine! not covered with lowering clouds of justly-merited displeasure, as sometimes we see in the natural sky an obscured sun looking angrily down, presaging wind and storm. It is indeed true that, when we have brought guilt into our consciences, the face of God is seen to lower with anger. We have brought his just displeasure upon our heads; though not angry with the persons of his people, yet is he justly angry with their sins; and a sense of this in the soul covers his face with clouds—"You have covered yourself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through" (La 3:44).

 

"The Lord make his face shine upon you." And if he makes his face shine upon you, he will make your face shine too. It was so with Moses, when he was in the mount and was holding sweet communion with God. When he came down among the people, the skin of his face shone; the glory of God was reflected upon it. And if the Lord makes his face shine upon you, it will make your face not unlike the face of Moses when you go among the people of God.

 

"And be gracious unto you." Nu 6:25

 

How sweet the gospel is! But what makes the gospel sweet? That one word which sheds a perfume through the whole—grace. Take grace out of the gospel and you destroy the gospel; you nullify and overthrow it; it is the gospel no more. Grace pervades every part and every branch of the blessed gospel; it is the life of the gospel; in a word, it is the gospel itself. "Be gracious unto you." In what, then, is God gracious? In a broken law? What does that know of grace? In resolutions of amendment, creature performances, and human righteousness? Can the Lord, will the Lord show himself gracious in these? I have read of a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers. We might as well expect to make sunbeams out of cucumbers as to make grace out of the law; it is cold as cucumbers; there is no sun in it.

 

Grace, to be grace, must come out of the gospel. It is in the gospel, and out of the gospel must it come; and it does come, excluding all creature righteousness, putting an extinguisher upon all human merit. As the Apostle argues—"And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work" (Ro 11:6). "The Lord be gracious unto you."

 

But how is the Lord gracious? Perhaps you have had occasion, at some time of your life, to go into the presence of some one in worldly rank far your superior, and you went timid, nervous, and trembling; but you experienced what is called a "gracious reception." Did not that enable you to speak and open your petition? So it is in the things of God. A sense of our lowliness and unworthiness may and does make us tremble and feel timid before the face of the Most High; but when he draws us into his presence, and receives us graciously, as king Ahasuerus received the trembling Esther, extending to her the scepter of his grace, it emboldens the soul to lay its petition at his feet. Nothing will do it but this.

 

But you feel and say often, "I am so unworthy." Will you ever be anything else? When do you hope to be worthy? When do you mean to be worthy? If you could be worthy tomorrow, where is your worthiness today? Is the old score yet paid? If you venture upon the ground of 'worthiness' you must have the old score rubbed off before you come to the new. Worthiness! where is it? In man? Never since the day that Adam fell. Righteousness fell in Paradise; when Adam's hand touched the apple, worthiness fell to the ground, and never since has been able to raise its head. I must not, then, go to God upon the ground of worthiness.

 

But may I go on the ground of unworthiness? I read of one who did, and met with a very gracious reception. "Lord," said one, "I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; but speak the word only and my servant shall be healed." What did the Lord say of this man? That he had not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. What, also, was the confession of the returning prodigal? "I am no more worthy to be called your son." But this brought out the best robe, the ring for the hand, and the shoes for the feet.

 

Why? Faith dwells with a sense of unworthiness; they are bosom companions; it dwells in no other but unworthy breasts. Feel spiritually unworthy and you are spiritually believing, for it is faith that gives a sense of unworthiness. You believe you are unworthy; by the same faith that you believe your unworthiness you believe God's grace. "Be gracious unto you." That melts the heart; law and terrors do but harden. It is grace that softens, grace that melts, grace that constrains, grace that produces, godly obedience.

Numbers 6:26

"The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace." Nu 6:26

 

When we offend a person, his face is not toward us as at other times. It was so with Laban towards Jacob; and if we have in any way incurred a friend's or superior's displeasure, we watch instinctively his countenance. Is it down or up? Does it wear a frown or a smile? Is it looking upon us with the eye of affection, or are the eyes averted? We can tell in a moment if we know the countenance. Thus is the blessing asked, "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you," as a kind and affectionate parent upon an obedient child, as a fond husband upon a loving, devoted wife; for such is God to his children—Father and Husband.

 

And do we not, as children, often provoke him to look upon us with frowning brow, or rather, not to look upon us at all, to "hide his face," as we read, "that we cannot see him?" The prayer then is, "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you," with a smile upon it; free, open, forgiving, merciful, and mild, that you may advance to him. When a disobedient child comes home and sees its father's face not towards it as before, it shrinks away; there is no pressing forward to get upon the knee, no throwing the little arms round the neck and snatching a kiss, but a shrinking away through guilt and shame. So it is in the things of God. When conscience tells us how in this and that instance we have disobeyed, been inconsistent, transgressed, and done amiss, when we go into God's presence there is a hanging back, a shrinking away, through fear of an ill reception.

 

But oh, the change in the child when the frown disappears and the smile comes; when the little one is taken once more into the arms and the tears are kissed away! How much more so in the things of God when he kisses away the tears of the disobedient child, as in the case of the returning prodigal! There are no kisses like those kisses of forgiveness, of mercy, and of restoring grace.

 

"And give you peace." Oh, what a blessing! As Deer says, "I'll lay me down and sweetly sleep, for I have peace with God." It is this that makes the pillow easy in life, and will alone make that pillow easy in death—peace with God through Jesus Christ, peace through the reconciliation, peace through the blood of sprinkling, "the peace of God which passes all understanding." Many covet great things, high things. But what said the Lord to Baruch? "Do you seek you great things for yourself? seek them not." Ministers often seek great gifts, great eloquence, great knowledge of mysteries, great congregations, great popularity and influence. They are wrong in seeking these so-called great things. Let them rather seek real things, gracious things, things that will make their souls blessed here and hereafter.

 

The blessing that the gracious soul most earnestly covets is peace; for this is the sweetest honey-drop in God's cup. It is true that it does not make the heart overflow like joy, nor to dance with exultation like the first beaming in of the rays of hope, nor melt it down like the visits of love; but it is in some respects sweeter than all, because it so settles down the soul into sweet assurance; it is the realization of the Savior himself, for "he is our peace," and may thus be called the crowning blessing.

Deuteronomy 8:2

"And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not." De 8:2

 

When you look back upon the way the Lord has led you these many years in the wilderness, can you not see how circumstance after circumstance, and event after event arose, to prove what was in you; whether godly fear, whether simplicity and sincerity, whether a desire to fear God, whether a dread to offend him, whether the life and power of vital godliness, or whether little else than an empty profession without the life-giving power of God in the soul?

 

What a mercy for you to be able to look back and see how the Lord appeared for you, when without him you must have sunk; when you can feel, to your soul's comfort, that the Lord did uphold you in the trying hour, did appear for you in distressing circumstances, did make bare his right arm when you had no strength of your own, did guide you when you had lost all clue, did bring you safe through all when, without his help, you must have been utterly lost. What a mercy it is to be able, by the actings of living faith (and sure I am, there must be faith in exercise), to look back upon the way, and believe that indeed the grace of God was in your heart, that the Lord proved it, and showed it to be genuine by every circumstance that has taken place.

Deuteronomy 8:3

"He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." De 8:3

 

This is the grand lesson which we have to learn in our wilderness journey—"that man does not live by bread alone," that is, by those providential supplies which relieve our natural necessities. Thanks be to God for any bread that he gives us in his kind and bountiful providence. An honest living is a great mercy. To be enabled by the labor of our hands or by the labor of our brain to maintain our families and bring them up in a degree of comfort, if not abundance, is a great blessing. But God has determined that his people shall not live by bread alone. They shall be separated from the mass of men who live in this carnal way only; who have no care beyond earthly possessions, and the sum of whose thoughts and desires is, what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and with what they shall be clothed; who never look beyond the purse, the business, the daily occupation, the safe return, the profitable investment, and how to provide for themselves and their families.

 

God has planted in the breast of his people a higher life, a nobler principle, a more blessed appetite than to live upon bread alone. We bless him for his providence, but we love him for his grace. We thank him for daily food and clothing, but these mercies are but for time, perishing in their very use, and he has provided us with that which is for eternity. What then does he mean the soul to live upon? "Upon every word that proceeds out of his mouth." But where do we find these words that proceed out of the mouth of God? In the Scriptures, which is the food of the Church, and especially in Scripture as applied to the heart, in the words that God is pleased to drop into the soul by a divine power, which we receive from his gracious mouth, and lay hold of with a believing hand. That is the food and nutriment of our soul; the truth of God applied to our heart and made life and spirit to our souls by his own teaching and testimony. And see how large and ample the supply is. Look through the whole compass of God's revealed word, and see in it what a store there is of provision laid up for the Church of God. How this should both stimulate and encourage us to search the Scriptures as for hid treasure, to read them constantly, to meditate upon them, to seek to enter into the mind of God as revealed in them, and thus to find them to be the food of our soul. If we were fully persuaded that every word of the Scripture came out of God's mouth, and was meant to feed our soul, how much more we would prize it, read, and study it.

Deuteronomy 32:2

"My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." — De 32:2

 

In the falling of the natural dew there is something soft, still, and gentle. We therefore read, "We will light upon him as the dew falls on the ground" (2Sa 17:12), that is, stealthily and unseen. It does not rush down like the pelting hail, but falls stilly and often imperceptibly; so that we scarcely know it has fallen, until we go out in the morning and see every blade of grass tipped with the sparkling dew-drops; by these bright gems we know that dew has fallen during the still hours of the night.

 

So spiritually, the kingdom of God is not in noise, rant, or wild excitement. The Lord was not in the strong wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still small voice (1Ki 19:11-12). And thus there may be a great deal of religious fire, but no presence of God felt; fleshly passions worked up into a storm, but no "still small voice" speaking to the conscience; a very earthquake of natural convictions, but no inward "demonstration of the Spirit and of power." But when the spiritual dew falls, it drops gently, softly, and stilly into the heart, and it is only known by the sweet and blessed effects it produces.

Dew also has a softening effect, especially in warm climates, where it falls very copiously. We therefore read, "You make it soft with showers" (Ps 65:10). It does not tear up the ground as with thunderbolts, but by moistening and softening penetrates into the soil. And thus the dew of God's grace moistens and softens the heart, humbles, dissolves, and fertilizes it; not by tearing it up with the thunderbolts of wrath and condemnation, but by dropping gently and stilly into it, so as to melt it into contrition, meekness, and godly sorrow before the throne of mercy and grace.

"My teaching shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." De 32:2

 

We have in our text an ascending scale—the dew, the small rain, the rain, and the showers. And this graduated scale of heavenly moisture shows that there are degrees of spiritual blessing. We must not expect all to be blessed to the same extent, nor all to receive the same measure. Yet all are of the same nature. Examine "the dew," it is water; "the small rain," it is water; "the rain," it is water; "the showers," they are still water. You cannot find any difference between the water of the dew, of the small rain, of the rain, and of the showers—they are all alike pure water, distilled from the sky.

 

So it is with the blessing of God upon the soul. It may fall upon one as the dew, upon another as the small rain, upon a third as the rain, on a fourth as the showers; yet all are equally and alike spiritual and divine. It is the same God that gives; through the same Jesus it comes; by the same Spirit it is communicated. All produce more or less the same effects—to soften, to moisten, to fertilize, and to revive; and all descend from the heaven of Christ's gospel; all fall from the same skies of grace, mercy, and truth, love, blood, and salvation. 

The teaching, therefore, that testifies of Jesus; and the speech that proclaims him to be a Rock, and his work to be perfect, and no other teaching, "drops as the rain and distills as the dew." There is a power in truth, when God is pleased to apply it to the heart; and whether it come in large or in small measure, whether it be in dew or shower, it is equally a proof of his mercy and love, and equally a proof that his power attends his own divine truth to our soul.

Deuteronomy 32:10

"He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye." De 32:10

 

"He led them about." This was true literally. What a circuitous, tangled, backward and forward route was that of the children of Israel in the wilderness! Yet every step was under God's direction; they never moved until the cloudy pillar led the way.

 

But how does the Lord lead about in grace? By leading his Israel into a path of which they do not see the end. One turn of the road hides the next. I have read that you may make a road with a curve at every quarter of a mile, and yet in a hundred miles the distance will not be so much as a mile more than a perfectly straight line. So in grace. The length of the road swallows up the turnings.

 

But these turnings make the road seem more round about than it really is. All before us is hidden. For instance, when the Lord begins a work of grace, he brings convictions of sin, opens up the spirituality of the law, makes the soul feel guilty, guilty, guilty in every thought, word, and deed. But does a man in that condition know what the Lord is doing? Can he clearly trace out the work of God upon his soul? Is he able to say, "This, this is the work of God upon my heart?" For the most part, he knows not what is the matter with him; why he is so distressed; why he can take no rest; why the things of eternity keep rolling in upon his soul; why he stands in continual dread of the wrath to come; why his mind is so exercised with thoughts upon God; why he feels condemnation, bondage, and misery.

 

Nor even when the Lord is pleased to raise him up to some hope, to apply some sweet promise to his soul, to encourage him in various ways under the ministry of the word, can he often take the full comfort of it. He may for a time, but it is soon gone, and he can scarcely believe it to be real. Unbelief suggests that it did not come exactly in the right way, or did not last long enough, or did not go deep enough, or was not just such as he has heard others speak of; and so he is filled with doubts, fears, and anxieties whether it was really from the Lord. But when God leads him on a step further; opens up the gospel, reveals Christ, drops into his heart some sweet testimony, gives him some blessed discovery of his saving interest in the Lord Jesus, and seals it with a divine witness in his heart, this banishes all his doubts and fears, and fills his soul with joy and peace. Yet even after this, when the sweet feeling is gone, he may sink again very low, and may question the reality of the revelation he has enjoyed. All this is "leading about;" for one turn of the road hides the other.

Deuteronomy 32:39

"I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal." De 32:39

 

The work of grace in the soul, in its very beginnings, penetrates deeply into its inmost substance. It wounds and lays open the conscience to the eye of infinite Purity and Holiness. "The entrance of your word (that is, the very first entrance) gives light." "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

 

All conviction to be true conviction must be thorough. The field must be ploughed, broken up, and furrowed, before the seed can find a home, a seed-bed for the seed to fall in so as to germinate and grow. There is much to be done in a sinner's heart before Christ can dwell in him by faith, or be formed in him the hope of glory. The heart is naturally very hard; thorns, thistles, and briars overspread its surface; the noxious weeds of pride and lust have taken deep root; much grubbing up of these bosom sins, as well as of our inbred self-righteousness and fleshly holiness, creature strength and sufficiency, is needed to—prepare us to receive a free grace salvation—separate us from the world and false professors—embitter to us the loved things of time and sense—and lay us suing for mercy at the foot of the cross.

 

The first work, therefore, of conviction must be deep, or at least thorough, in order to make room for Christ and his salvation. And so it is with any manifestation or discovery of the Lord Jesus Christ, any application of his blood, any visitation of his presence, or shedding abroad of his love; these divine realities do not float upon the surface, but sink deep, and penetrate into his heart of hearts, into a man's inmost and deepest soul. How soon is all lost and forgotten, but what the blessed Spirit writes himself in the heart! People say, "How well we have heard!" but all is lost and dropped before they get home from the house of prayer. They read a chapter, close the Bible, and with it, all they have read is closed too. Many have passing pangs of conviction, and passing desires, who give little proof of living under the Spirit's anointings. That divine Spirit does not let the saints of God off so easily. He holds them fast and firm to the work of conviction until he has slain them outright; and when he blesses he heals as deep as he wounds, and reveals the gospel as powerfully as he applies the law.

Deuteronomy 33:27

"Underneath are the everlasting arms." De 33:27

 

How Moses brought before the people the eternity of God! He will have nothing to do with time. What is time? A fragment, merely like the foam of the sea compared with the mighty ocean. The ocean is eternity; time is merely the foam upon the wave. "Underneath are the everlasting arms." And depend upon it, if the everlasting arms are underneath the saints of God, for it is of and to those who the words are spoken, they are there for some purpose. God puts affliction upon affliction to bring the soul down, that it may fall into and upon the everlasting arms, and find how firm and strong they are. And have you not often found it so? Do not lie against your right. How many trials in providence you have been brought through. How conspicuously the Lord has appeared in this and that instance, so that your unbelief and infidelity were, for the time at least, thoroughly silenced, and faith saw the hand of God so clearly that you felt as if you could never doubt again. Have you not had many sweet supports on your bed of languishing, many precious seasons when you could bless God for laying upon you his afflicting hand? And have you not found that strength was always given to you according to your day, that with every trial power was given you to bear it, and that out of your deepest afflictions came your greatest blessings? Why are you not in hell? Do you not deserve to be there? Why still upon praying ground, with a good hope through grace, and your soul waiting for the Lord to appear, more than those that watch for the morning? If these arms have once supported you, will they not support you again? Would they be everlasting if they could part asunder and let you fall through? Rest upon them and you will find how strong they are.

 

"The eternal God is your refuge." De 33:27

 

Who is this eternal God? He is the great and glorious Jehovah, eternal in his Trinity of Persons and in the Unity of his Essence. And what a depth of blessedness there is in this God being an eternal God; and that in and of this eternity, each Person of the Godhead has an equal share. Look at the LOVE of the eternal God. How eternal was that—not a thing of time, not fixed upon us when first brought into being, not issuing out of his bosom first when we were quickened into divine life; but a love from all eternity, as being the love of an eternal God. "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you."

 

And how eternal are the THOUGHTS of God; those thoughts which were of good, not of evil. They were eternal thoughts of peace to the Church; eternal thoughts of mercy to his beloved family; eternal thoughts of manifesting his grace in the Person and work of his dear Son; eternal flowings forth of goodness and love to those whom he had chosen in Christ, that they might be one with him, members of that glorious body of which his dear Son should be the Head. And eternal PURPOSES also that nothing could defeat, that all the waves of time could not break through; eternal WISDOM also to devise, and eternal POWER to accomplish.

 

Oh, this eternal God! We look back into eternity; we see what a God he was from all eternity; and then we look forward to what he will be to all eternity. And we see him unchanging and unchangeable, resting in his love without variableness or the shadow of a turn, whether in eternity past, or in eternity to come. We think of the spirits of just men made perfect; we follow in faith and hope the souls of our dear departed friends; we view them drinking the pleasures which are at his right hand forever; and so they will be there to all eternity, ever basking in the smiles of an eternal God, ever living in his favor, ever conformed to the glorious image of his eternal Son, and ever drinking fresh draughts of love and bliss in his eternal presence.

 

Oh, this eternal Father in the depths of his fatherly love in the gift of his dear Son! Oh, the love, condescension, and tenderness of this eternal Son in the depths of his mercy and grace in suffering, bleeding, and dying for poor, guilty sinners! Oh, the wisdom, the power, the grace, and the blessedness of this eternal Spirit, in taking of the things of Christ, unfolding the Person of Jesus, bringing him near, revealing him to the soul, sprinkling the conscience with his blood, and making him known and precious! What a depth of gratitude is everlastingly due from the redeemed Church of God, to all the three sacred Persons of the glorious and undivided Trinity, and that both in his Trinity of Persons and his Unity of Essence the eternal God should be their refuge!

 

"Underneath are the everlasting arms." De 33:27

 

The "everlasting arms" of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the divine Jehovah, are "underneath" every one of his people, and, being underneath them, they can neither fall through them nor out of them; but they are borne, and supported, and carried along by them until they are brought to the eternal enjoyment of a Three-One God. Now, if these "everlasting arms" were not underneath a man, so deceitful is his heart, so desperately wicked is his corrupt nature, such dreadful stratagems does Satan lay for his feet, and such numerous perils encompass every step, that he must infallibly perish.

 

But what we need to feel is, that these arms are underneath us. What good will the doctrine do us? The doctrine of the "everlasting arms" being underneath us will not satisfy our souls, if we feel that we are sinking fathoms. If we keep sinking, sinking, sinking, and are afraid, at times, that we shall sink at last into hell, the bare doctrine that the "everlasting arms" are underneath God's people will not satisfy us; but we need to feel them under us, so that we can rest upon them, and enjoy a blessed support in them and coming out of them.

How secure the babe lies in its mother's arms as long as it can feel the arms touching and supporting its body; but let the mother withdraw the arm, the babe is in fear; it cries out in alarm; but so long as it feels the pressure of the mother's arms, it sleeps on calm and secure. So with living souls; if they cannot find the "everlasting arms" underneath them, they cannot rest in the mere doctrine of God's upholding the Church; but when they can feel a support given; when in trouble, in affliction, in sorrow, in temptation, there is a sensible leaning upon the everlasting arms, and a sensible support communicated by them, then they can rest calmly and contentedly upon them.

"The eternal God is your refuge." De 33:27

 

There is, to my mind, much sweetness in the contrast between the eternal God being the refuge of his people, and the lying refuges that most hide their heads in. God's people need an eternal refuge. They have a never-dying soul; and unless they have a never-dying refuge, it is not sufficient for a never-dying soul. Works! these are for time; the never-dying soul needs something to stand when works and wonders cease. Doctrines, opinions, sentiments, ordinances, the good opinion of men, the applause and flattery of the creature—these are of the earth, earthy; they fail when a man gives up the spirit.

But a child of God needs a refuge, not merely that his soul may anchor in it in time, but that when time is ended, when the angel proclaims, "There shall be time no longer," and his liberated soul escapes its prison-house, and is wafted into the presence of the eternal God, it may find in Him at that solemn moment a refuge. No, all through eternity, in the rolling circle of its never-ending ages, the soul will still need a refuge. For could it even in eternity exist for a moment out of Christ—in a word, were the refuge of the elect anything but eternal, the moment the limited time of their shelter closed, the frowns of God would hurl them into perdition; so that nothing but an eternal God can ever be a refuge for a never-dying soul.  

It does not say, "His grace is your refuge." No; because grace will end in glory. Nor does it say, "His mercy is your refuge," for his mercy will end in blessing and praise. Nor does it say, "His attributes or his perfections are a refuge." It drops the gifts, and leads the soul up to the Giver, as though God's own gifts and mercies were not sufficient, but that the immortal soul must have the immortal God, and the never-dying spirit is only safe in the bosom of an eternal Jehovah.

Joshua 15:8

"Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples." — Joh 15:8

 

The bearing of much fruit not only brings glory to God, but proves such rich fruit-bearers to be genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus. Now, though there is no merit in their bearing fruit, they sometimes get comfort from it, as proving an abiding union with Christ. "If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." There is no maintaining of holy confidence in the soul but by walking in godly obedience; nor can there be any true spiritual communion with God while the guilt of disobedience lies hard and heavy on the conscience. To make straight paths for our feet; to walk in the fear of God; to live to his glory, are not only sweet tests of genuine discipleship, but faith, hope, and love cannot be maintained without them.

 

And yet if we know anything of what gospel fruit is, and what we are as poor, vile sinners, must we not too often put our mouth in the dust? Instead of rejoicing in our fruitfulness, must we not often rather lament our barrenness, and cry out, "My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!" Still, if we see and feel a deficiency in these points in ourselves and others, and, comparing our hearts, lips, and lives with the word of truth, must plead guilty, shall this utterly discourage us? No. This very discouragement may prove of service to us. It is good, at times, to be discouraged; because it makes us learn that "without Christ we can do nothing," and that it is only by his grace that we can produce fruit to his glory. It is, therefore, good to see and feel our barrenness and unfruitfulness; for it is this very sight and sense of our own want of fruit that leads us in earnest desires to the Lord Jesus Christ to work in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure.

Judges 6:39

Then Gideon said to God, "Please don't be angry with me, but let me make one more request. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew." So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew." Jg 6:39-40

 

Many of the Lord's people labor under doubts and fears, questionings and suspicions as to the reality of the work of grace upon their hearts; whether their convictions were not merely convictions of natural conscience, and whether their joys have been anything else but the joys of the hypocrite. "O," they say, "what would I not give to have a divine testimony that the blessed Spirit was leading me in the right path!"

 

It is through these very doubts that the evidence is obtained. Doubts lead to cries and groans after a divine testimony; and in answer to these cries the heavenly witness is given. A man without doubts is without testimonies. Doubts are to testimonies what the lock to the key, the enigma to the solution. Testimonies are Ebenezers, "stones of help" (1Sa 7:12, marg.); but the stone must have a hole dug for it to stand in, and that hole is doubt. Doubts of salvation are to manifestations of salvation what hunger is to food, nakedness to clothing, a thunderstorm to a shelter, a gallows to a reprieve, and death to a resurrection. The one of these things precedes, prepares, and opens a way for the other. The first is nothing without the last, nor the last without the first. Thus, next to testimonies, the best thing is spiritual doubts. To know we are right is the best thing; to fear we are wrong is the second best. To enjoy the witness of the Spirit is the most blessed thing this side of the grave; to pant after that enjoyment is the next greatest blessing. I am speaking, mind, only of spiritual doubts; that is, doubts in a spiritual man, for natural doubts are as far from salvation as natural hopes. The path through the valley of Baca is "from strength to strength," that is, according to the eastern mode of traveling, from one halting-place to another, where wells are dug, and "the rain fills the pools" (Ps 84:6-7).

 

We do not learn either God or ourselves, sin or salvation, in a day. The question is not so much whether you have much faith, but whether you have any. It is not quantity, but quality; not whether you have a very great religion, but whether you have any at all. A grain of true faith will save the soul; and I have known many, many seasons when I would have been glad to feel certain that I had the thousandth part of a grain. A grain of mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds; and even faith as small as that can move mountains. Happy is he that has one divine testimony to his eternal interest in the electing love of the Father, in the atoning blood and justifying righteousness of the Son, and in the divine teachings of the Holy Spirit.

1 Samuel 1:15

"I have poured out my soul before the Lord." 1Sa 1:15

 

How much there is in that expression pouring out the soul before the Lord! Shall I use a familiar figure to illustrate it, as sometimes familiar figures are best adapted to that purpose? Look at a sack of corn; you know, when the mouth of the sack is tied up, there is no pouring out its contents; but let the sack be opened and thrown down, and then its contents are immediately poured out, and the rich grain falls upon the floor. Our hearts are sometimes like the sack with the mouth tied; there are desires, pantings, and longings; there are needs, and these urgently felt; but we cannot give them utterance. As we read, "I opened my mouth and panted." But the Lord in mercy, at times, opens the mouth; and then when the mouth is opened, the heart can pour out its desires, just as the rich grain is poured out of a sack when the mouth is untied.

 

But must not the sack be full before the grain is poured out? If there are but a few grains at the bottom, or only half-a-pint of wheat in one corner of the sack, though you open the mouth, there is no pouring out of the rich grain. So with our hearts. If the heart be not full; if there be no vehement desires struggling for utterance, we may open the mouth, but there is no pouring it out in pantings and longings.

 

If you want a scriptural instance of what it is to pour out the soul before the Lord, read the first chapter of the first book of Samuel, where you will find that gracious woman Hannah, so agitated, and so discovering the state of her mind by the convulsive movements of her frame, that the high priest charged her with being drunken; but though her heart was so full that her lips quivered, and her very features betrayed what was passing within, yet she meekly replied to his chiding speech, when he bade her to put away her wine, "No, my Lord; I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord." That was something like prayer. And we know what a blessed answer the Lord gave her, and how the Holy Spirit has recorded her triumphal song.

1 Samuel 2:8

"He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the ash-heap, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory." 1Sa 2:8

 

A man can never reach heaven unless he travels heavenwards, Zionwards, in the way that God has marked out for his people to walk in. It is a delusion to think that we are going to heaven unless we know something of divine teaching in the soul. But if we know anything of divine teaching, we know what it is to be poor and needy, we know what it is, more or less, to have our mouth in the dust. But many people do so mistake the way to heaven. The ordinary way is to set up a ladder to reach from earth to heaven, and progressively clambering up the different rungs, at last to climb up into the abode of God. But that is not the way of God's people. They have to go down, down, down, that they may be raised up. It is not with them first "up, up, up," to scale the battlements of heaven. Every such step upwards in SELF is in reality only a step downwards; but, on the other hand, every step downwards in self, downwards into the depths of poverty, downwards into felt misery, downwards into soul-trouble and the real groanings of a broken heart—every such step downwards in self is, in fact, a step upwards in Christ.

 

Until we get to the very bottom there is no promise. "He raises up the poor out of the dust." But how? He does it in a moment. The Lord does not raise up his people rung by rung, enabling them to clamber and crawl with their hands and feet to him. But, when he lifts up the poor out of the dust, he gives them a smile which reaches, so to speak, to the very bottom of their hearts; and that smile has such a miraculous power, such a drawing efficacy, that it lifts them in a moment out of the dust into the very bosom of God. When, therefore, the Lord raises up the poor out of the dust, he does not lift them up by a gradual process, step by step as they went down. They were, perhaps, many years going down; but they are raised up in a moment. The God of all grace, by one word, or by one smile, lifts them up in a moment out of the lowest depths of felt degradation, "sets them among princes, and makes them inherit the throne of glory."

1 Samuel 2:9

"He will keep the feet of his saints." — 1Sa 2:9

 

The Lord sees his poor scattered pilgrims traveling through a valley of tears, journeying through a waste howling wilderness, a path beset with baits, traps, and snares in every direction. How can they escape? Why, the Lord keeps their feet, carries them through every rough place, as a tender parent carries a little child; when about to fall, graciously lays the everlasting arms underneath them, and when tottering and stumbling, and their feet ready to slip, mercifully upholds them from falling altogether. Thus the Lord keeps the feet of his saints.

 

But do you think that he has not different ways for different feet? The God of creation has not made two flowers, nor two leaves upon a tree alike; and will he cause all his people to walk in precisely the same path? No; we have each our path, each our troubles, each our trials, each peculiar traps and snares laid for our feet. And the wisdom of the all-wise and only-wise God is shown by his eyes being in every place, marking the footsteps of every pilgrim, suiting his remedies to meet their individual case and necessity, appearing for them when nobody else could do them any good; watching so tenderly over them, as though the eyes of his affection were bent on one individual; and carefully noting the goings of each, as though all the powers of the Godhead were concentrated on that one person to keep him from harm.

2 Samuel 14:14

"Yet does he devise means that his banished be not expelled from him." 2Sa 14:14

 

The promise runs, "I will bring again that which was driven away" (Eze 34:16). Guilt, temptation, Satan, doubts, and fears had driven them away from the shelter of the tabernacle. Yet the Lord has respect unto these also. He says, "I will bring again." But how? By nothing but a sense of mercy. It is not by frowns, but by smiles. "I drew them," says the Lord, "with cords of a man" (that is, the tender feelings that are bound up in the human heart), "with bands of love." You may thunder, you may lightening, you may take the whip and flog a poor backslider—but you can never flog him home. He must be drawn by mercy, by the goodness of God, which leads to repentance.

 

How was Peter brought back? By that look which Jesus gave him, as he stood in the hall of the high priest; that look of mingled love and reproach. It was this that made Peter go out and weep bitterly. A frown would have driven him into despair, and made him hang himself by the side of Judas; but that look of mingled reproof and love wounded and healed, filled heart and eyes with the deepest grief and sorrow; and yet poured such a healing balm into his mourning soul that when Jesus was risen from the dead, and by his angel sent him a special message that he would see him again in Galilee, he leaped into the sea to meet him, when he stood on the shore of the lake Tiberias. But for that look and for that message, he would rather have leaped to the bottom with self-reproach, than leaped to the shore with love and affection. Thus was brought again poor driven-away Peter. And thus too, by the voice of pardon, was brought again poor driven-away David. For the Lord devises means that his banished be not expelled from him.

2 Samuel 23:2

"The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and his word was in my tongue." — 2Sa 23:2

 

We read that "no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation;" that is to say, it is the public property of the whole family of Jehovah; and "holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit;" the Holy Spirit so influencing and working upon their minds as to make them bring forth out of their hearts that which should be suitable to the whole family of God. For instance, we read in Ps 51, David's confession of sin; but David's confession of sin applies to every soul that is condemned on account of sin. When Job, also, poured out his piteous complaints, he was speaking; though he might not know it, for the children of God to the remotest time.

 

So when the Lord said to Joshua, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you," it was a promise specially given to Joshua; it seemed to be confined to that individual; it appeared to be of private interpretation, as though Joshua, and Joshua alone, was entitled to that promise. But we find the apostle Paul bringing forward this promise as the general property of the whole Church of God—"Let your life be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have—for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you" (Heb 13:5). "He has said?" to whom? To Joshua; but in saying it to Joshua, he said it to the Church of God; in giving Joshua the promise, he gave that promise to every soul that needed with Joshua his help, that feared with Joshua to be forsaken, that wanted with Joshua his sustaining hand; and therefore this private promise to Joshua was not of private interpretation, but, when applied by the blessed Spirit, suits every living soul that is placed in similar circumstances with the individual to whom that promise was addressed.

2 Samuel 23:5

"He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure." — 2Sa 23:5

 

O the blessedness of having a manifest interest in the blood of the covenant, and thus to have a testimony that God has made a covenant with his dear Son upon our behalf; that our names are written in the book of life; and that Christ is our Mediator at the right hand of the Father! What are all earthly blessings compared with this? What are health and strength and riches and all the goods of this life; what is everything that the carnal heart can desire or the covetous mind grasp; what is all compared with an interest in the everlasting covenant, and in the love and blood and righteousness of the Lord the Lamb? What is earth, with all its attractions, compared with an interest in the precious, precious blood of a dying Jesus?

 

You will find it so when you come to lie upon a bed of languishing and pain; when the cold drops of sweat stand upon your forehead, and the last enemy is about to grasp you by the throat. What will your anxious strivings to have something and be something more than you have or are—aye, I may add, your successes—what will they do for you then? Only be so many ghastly spectres of the past to terrify and alarm your conscience, to see what shadows you have been seeking to grasp to the neglect of solid substance. But in that solemn hour to have a testimony from God of pardon and peace, will make smooth a dying bed, will calm all anxious fears, and will take you safely through the dark valley of the shadow of death.

2 Kings 22:19

"Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord." 2Ki 22:19

 

This tenderness of heart was a mark in Josiah, on which the Lord, so to speak, put his finger; it was a special token for good which God selected from all the rest, as a testimony in his favor. The heart is always tender which God has touched with his finger; this tenderness being the fruit of the impression of the Lord's hand upon the conscience. You may know the difference between a natural conscience and a heart tender in God's fear by this—that the natural conscience is always superstitious and uncertain; as the Lord says, it "strains out a gnat, and swallows a camel." It is exceedingly observant of self-inflicted austerities, and very fearful of breaking through self-imposed rules; and while it will commit sin which a man who has the fear of God in his heart would not do for the world—it will stumble at mere unimportant trifles at which an enlightened soul would not feel the least scruple.

 

But here is the mark of a heart tender in God's fear—it moves as God the Spirit works upon it. It is like the mariner's compass, which having been once touched by the magnet, always turns toward the north; it may indeed oscillate and tremble backwards and forwards, but still it will return to the pole, and ultimately remain fixed at the point whence it was temporarily disturbed. So when the heart has been touched by the Spirit, and has been made tender in God's fear, it may for a time waver to the right hand or to the left, but it is always trembling and fluctuating until it points towards God, as the only and eternal center of its happiness and holiness.

1 Chronicles 4:10

"O that you would bless me indeed!" 1Ch 4:10

 

An "indeed" blessing is what the soul is seeking after which has ever felt the misery and bitterness of sin, and ever tasted the sweetness of God's salvation. And these "indeed" blessings are seen to be spiritual and eternal. Compared with such blessings as these, it sees how vain and empty are all earthly things, what vain toys, what idle dreams, what passing shadows. It wonders at the folly of men in hunting after such vain shows, and spending time, health, money, life itself, in a pursuit of nothing but misery and destruction. Every passing funeral bell that it hears, every corpse borne slowly along to the grave that it sees, impresses it with solemn feelings as to the state of those who live and die in their sins. Thus it learns more and more to contrast time with eternity, earth with heaven, sinners with saints, and professors with possessors. By these things it is taught, with Baruch, not "to seek great things" for itself, but real things; things which will outlast time, and fit it for eternity. It is thus brought to care little for the opinion of men as to what is good or great, but much for what God has stamped his own approbation upon, such as a tender conscience, a broken heart, a contrite spirit, a humble mind, a separation from the world and everything worldly, a submission to his holy will, a meek endurance of the cross, a conformity to Christ's suffering image, and a living to God's glory.

 

As, then, the gracious Lord is pleased to indulge it with some discovery of himself, shedding abroad a sweet sense of his goodness and mercy, atoning blood, and dying love, it is made to long more and more for the manifestation of those blessings which alone are to be found in him. For his blessings are not like the mere temporal mercies which we enjoy at his hands, all of which perish in the using, but are forever and ever; and when once given are never taken away. They thus become pledges and foretastes of eternal joys, for they are absolutely irreversible.

 

When Isaac had once blessed Jacob in God's name, though the blessing had been obtained by deceit, yet having been once given, it could not be recalled. He said, therefore, to Esau, "I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed." So when the Lord has blessed his people with any of those spiritual blessings which are stored up in his inexhaustible fullness, these blessings are like himself, unchanging and unchangeable; for "he is in one mind and none can turn him;" "The same yesterday, today, and forever."

 

"And enlarge my coast." 1Ch 4:10

 

A coast means a boundary line such as divides one territory from another, or terminates a country, as the sea coast is the boundary of our island. Every quickened soul has a coast; that is, a territory of inward experience, which is limited and bounded by the line that the Holy Spirit has drawn in his conscience. As the Lord divided the tribes, to cast their inheritance by line (Ps 78:55), so has he cast the lot for every vessel of mercy, and his hand has divided it unto them by line (Isa 34:17). This is as it were the tether which fastens down every quickened soul to his own appointed portion of inward experience. Within this tether he may walk, feed, and lie down. It is "the food convenient for him," the strip of pasture allotted him. He cannot, he dare not break this tether, which is fastened round a tender conscience, and every stretching forth beyond his measure to boast in another man's line of things, cuts into and galls this tender conscience. But the living soul cannot but earnestly desire to have his coast enlarged. He wants more light, more life, more feeling, more liberty, more knowledge of God in Christ, more faith, hope, and love, and to have his narrow, contracted, shut-up heart enlarged in prayer, in meditation, in communion, in affection to the people of God.

 

He is not satisfied with the scanty pasture allotted him, but wants a larger measure of heavenly teaching, to be indulged with more filial confidence in, and access unto God, and be more delivered from that fear which has torment. "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Ge 9:27). "I will run the way of your commandments, when you shall enlarge my heart" (Ps 119:32).

 

This enlargement of their border the Lord had sworn to Israel, and to give them all the land which he had promised unto their fathers; and therefore when he had said, "Sing, O barren, you that did not bear," he adds, "enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of your habitations; spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes" (Isa 54:1-2).

 

Have you any of these fervent desires after light, love, and liberty, that the world, pride, lust, unbelief, covetousness, and carnality may not shut up your heart, but that you may know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, so as to be filled with all the fullness of God? These are good desires, and very different from rushing presumptuously forward, and chattering about liberty while you are slaves of corruption. It is one thing to look through the park gates, and another to enjoy the estate; but it is far better to look through the gates with wishful desires, than to break down the fence as a trespasser. To look upon the coffer is not to be put into possession of the writings, but it is better to wait and cry for the key of David than break it open, and steal the deeds. And he that is kept in the narrow, narrow path between sloth and presumption will be at solemn seasons crying out with Jabez, "O that you would enlarge my coast!"

1 Chronicles 29:15

"We are here for only a moment, sojourners and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a shadow, gone so soon without a trace." 1Ch 29:15

 

If you possess the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and, Jacob, you, like them, confess that you are a stranger; and your confession springs out of a believing heart and a feeling experience. You feel yourself a stranger in this ungodly world; it is not your element, it is not your home. You are in it during God's appointed time, but you wander up and down this world a stranger to its company, a stranger to its maxims, a stranger to its fashions, a stranger to its principles, a stranger to its motives, a stranger to its lusts, its inclinations, and all in which this world moves as in its native element.

 

Grace has separated you by God's sovereign power, that though you are in the world, you are not of it. I can tell you plainly, if you are at home in the world; if the things of time and sense are your element; if you feel one with the company of the world, the maxims of the world, the fashions of the world, and the principles of the world, grace has not reached your heart, the faith of God's elect does not dwell in your bosom.

 

The first effect of grace is to separate. It was so in the case of Abraham. He was called by grace to leave the land of his fathers, and go out into a land that God would show him. And so God's own word to his people is now, "Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

 

Separation, separation, separation from the world is the grand distinguishing mark of vital godliness. There may be indeed separation of body where there is no separation of heart. But what I mean is, separation of heart, separation of principle, separation of affection, separation of spirit. And if grace has touched your heart, and you are a partaker of the faith of God's elect, you are a stranger in the world, and will make it manifest by your life and conduct that you are such.

2 Chronicles 6:29

"Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all your people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house." 2Ch 6:29

 

Solomon comes to experience; he puts his hand upon the right spot. It is knowing his "own sore" and his "own grief." You may know another man's; that will not profit you. You may read of experience in books, love to hear experimental ministers, and will hear no others; and yet not know your "own sore," your "own grief." Like a physician who may know the symptoms of every malady, and yet not have one malady of his own; so you may hear described every symptom of every disease, and yet be untouched by one.

 

But the man for whom Solomon's prayer is, he that knows and feels, painfully feels, his "own sore" and his "own grief," whose heart is indeed a grief to him, whose sins do indeed trouble him. How painful this sore often is! how it runs night and day! how full of ulcerous matter, and how it shrinks from the probe! Most of the Lord's family have a "sore," each some tender spot, something perhaps known to himself and to God alone, the cause of his greatest grief. It may be some secret slip he has made, some sin he has committed, some word he has spoken, or some evil thing he has done. He has been entangled, and entrapped, and cast down; and this is his grief and his sore which he feels, and that at times deeply before God. For such Solomon prays—he casts his net upon the right side of the ship; and says, "Then hear from heaven your dwelling-place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart you know; for you only know the hearts of the children of men." Yes; God alone knows the heart; he knows it completely, and sees to its very bottom.

2 Chronicles 20:12

"O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." 2Ch 20:12

 

Jehoshaphat did not know what to do; he was altogether at his wit's end; and yet he took the wisest course a man could take. This is the beauty of it; that when we are fools, then we are wise; when we are weak, then we are strong; when we know not what to do, then we do the only right thing. O had Jehoshaphat taken any other course; had he collected an army, sent through Judah, raised troops and forged swords and spears he would certainly have been defeated! But not knowing what to do, he did the very thing he should do. "Our eyes are upon you." "You must fight our battles; you must take the matter into your own hands. Our eyes are upon you, waiting upon you, looking up, and hoping in you; believing in your holy name, expecting help from you, from whom alone help can come."

 

But this is painful work to be brought to this point, "Our eyes are upon you," implying there is no use looking to any other quarter. It assumes that the soul has looked, and looked, and looked elsewhere in vain, and then fixed its eyes upon God as knowing that from him alone all help must come.

 

This I believe to be the distinctive mark of a Christian, that his eyes are upon God. On his bed by night; in his room by day; in business or at market, when his soul is in trouble, cast down, and perplexed, his eyes are upon God. From him alone all help must come; none else can reach his case. All other but the help of God is ineffectual; it leaves him where it found him; it does him no good. We are never safe except our eyes are upon God. Let our eyes be upon him, we can walk safely; let our eyes be upon the creature, we are pretty sure to slip and stumble.

Nehemiah 5:15

"But because of my fear of God, I did not act that way." Ne 5:15

 

We can never praise God sufficiently for his restraining grace; for what would we be without it? What an unspeakable mercy, then, it is, that you cannot be what you would be, nor act as you would act, nor speak what you would speak, nor do the things you would do, because there is in you who fear God, a spiritual principle which holds you up, and keeps you back from the ways of sin and death in which the flesh would walk. How this spirit of grace and godly fear kept Joseph in the hour of temptation! How it preserved David when he had Saul in his power as he lay asleep in the cave! How it kept Nehemiah in the fear of God from extortion and oppression! And how, in thousands of instances, it has preserved the feet of the saints, and kept them from doing things that would have ruined their reputation, blighted their character, brought reproach upon the cause of God, and the greatest grief and distress into their own conscience!

Nehemiah 9:20

"You gave also your good Spirit to instruct them, and withheld not your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst." Ne 9:20

 

When we are thoroughly emptied of ourselves—when our knowledge is shown to be ignorance, our wisdom folly, our righteousness filthy rags, and our strength weakness—then we begin to long after the teachings of the blessed Spirit. We must be purged and tried before we can value and receive the treasures of grace. When we are well exercised and tried in our souls, then we begin to long after the teachings of the Holy Spirit, that he would shed abroad the love of God in our soul, visit and guide us, overshadow us with his holy presence, and drop into our hearts his secret unction.

 

Before we are brought here, we do not know the personality of the Holy Spirit. We have no evidence in our conscience that he is God; we cannot worship and adore him as the Third Person in the blessed Godhead. But when we are brought to this spot—that we know nothing without his teaching, feel nothing without his giving, and are nothing without his making—this makes us pant and sigh after his teachings and leadings; and we are brought to wait in the posture of holy adoration and still quietness for the dew and unction of the Spirit to fall upon our conscience.

Esther 4:16

"I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." — Es 4:16

 

When we are in darkness, under distress of conscience, or when guilt lies hard and heavy upon the soul, these things do, and must until removed, keep us back from the Lord. But are we ever to give heed to these enemies of our soul's peace? Are we never to press through the crowd? How was it with the man who was paralyzed for so many years? He might forever have lain helpless upon his bed, had he not been brought into the presence of Jesus. How with the woman with the issue of blood? She might forever have tarried on the skirts of the crowd, a poor, polluted, self-condemned wretch. But she pressed through the crowd, and got to touch the hem of Jesus' garment.

 

So with us. Shall we ever dwell in the outskirts—in the outer court of the temple? Shall we merely walk round Zion's walls and tarry at her doors, or shall we venture into the holiest itself? Shall we, driven out by fear, act like Cain, and go out from the presence of the Lord? Or shall we, with all our sins and discouragements, still draw near? The Apostle encourages us to come with holy boldness to the throne of grace, and to venture into the presence of the King of kings.

 

Esther would have ruined herself and all her nation had she given way to the weakness of the flesh; but she said, "I will go in unto the king; and if I perish, I perish." She went in with that resolution. The king held forth the scepter; Esther touched it, and she and the people were saved. So in grace. Shall we ever keep away through guilt, and sin, and shame? Now the Holy Spirit not only in the word of truth, encourages, but he himself from time to time enables us to draw near. And when we draw near under his divine operations, we feel the blessedness of so doing. Liberty is given, access, holy freedom, a spirit of prayer, power to take hold of God, to wrestle for the blessing, and sometimes to agonize with earnest sighs and groans and the energy of one of old—"I will not let you go except you bless me."

Job 19:28

"But you should say, Why are we persecuting him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?" Job 19:28

 

It is at the root that disease begins, in almost every plant. If ever you see even a plant in a flower-pot unhealthy, depend upon it there is something wrong at the root. It is overwatered or underwatered, or from some other cause the root has become diseased—and the root growth is suspended or unhealthy. So it is in religion—if there is anything wrong with a man, it is almost sure to be something wrong at the root. "The root of the matter," Job said, "is found in me." Job could appeal unto God that the root of his religion was right.

 

If "the root" had been wrong, "the matter" would not have been right; but as long as the root was sound, like "the teberinth tree" of which the prophet speaks, though "it cast its leaves, the substance would still be in it," to put forth in due time boughs like a plant (Isa 6:13). If a man's religion has no root, or if the root be injured by disease, it will be sure to discover itself in his profession. He cannot have a prosperous soul—prosperous inwardly and prosperous outwardly—unless the root be deep in the soil, and unless it be full of active fibers, drawing up secret nourishment from that river the streams whereof make glad the city of God. Then he shall be "like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit." (Jer 17:8).

Job 23:3

"O that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his dwelling! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments." Job 23:3-4

 

Was not Job in the same spot where we often are? If this aged patriarch had not known what it was to be shut up in his mind, harassed and distressed, and well-near overwhelmed with the attacks of the wicked one, he would not have said, "O that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his dwelling! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments." Has that ever been, is it now, the genuine feeling, the real experience of your soul? Do look into your heart, you that fear God. Do look for a moment, if you have never looked before, at the work of grace (and where are you, if you have never looked at it?) and consider if you know any of these matters. Did you ever, in a feeling of darkness, gloom, bondage, and distress of soul, cry (I do not say the words, it is the feelings we want, let the words go), "'O that I knew where I might find him!' Lord, I do want to find you; my soul longs after you; I want a taste of your blessed presence; I want to embrace you in the arms of my faith; I want the sweet testimonies of your gracious lips; 'O that I knew where I might find you!' I would not care what I went through."

 

If so, then these very things show that you have the fear of God in your souls, and the teaching of the Spirit in your hearts. You are where Job was, and if you know something of what Job speaks here, "O that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his dwelling!"—if that is the desire of your soul, you have Job's religion, you have job's experience, you have Job's affliction in this matter, and you will have Job's deliverance, Job's joy, Job's peace, and Job's salvation. Job's God is your God, and you will soon be where Job now is, bathing your ransomed soul in all the glory of the Lamb.

Job 23:10

"But he knows the way that I take—when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10

 

What a purifying effect experience of trial produces; what a separation it makes of the dross from the ore! If a man has a grain of faith in his soul, trial will discover it; if he has a particle of living hope, temptation will bring it to light; if he has a grain of love, trial will extract it from the ore; if he has any patience, any humility, any fear of God, any desire to be right, any dread to be wrong, any honesty, any sincerity, any integrity, in a word, if he has any vital power in his soul, anything of the grace of God in his heart, trial will make it manifest, as the hot flame of the furnace, acting upon the crucible, manifests the gold by breaking up its alliance with the dross. You scarcely know whether you are a believer or an unbeliever until you pass through trial. You do not know what the nature of faith is as a divine gift and a spiritual grace, unless you have passed through this fiery trial. You do not know the worthlessness of creature religion, the emptiness of everything in SELF, until you have been put into the furnace of trial.

 

We are tempted sometimes, perhaps, to doubt the truth of the Scriptures, the Deity of Christ, the efficacy of his atonement, and many things which I will not even hint at in your ears lest I unwittingly sow infidel seeds in your heart. Now when we are thus exercised, trial as a fire burns up everything that stands in the wisdom and strength of the creature, and brings us to this point, that nothing but that which is of God in the soul can live in the flame. If, then, we find there is that in our heart which lives in the flame, that there is a faith which trial cannot burn up, a hope it cannot destroy, a love it cannot consume, a fear of God which it cannot conquer, then we see there is that in our heart which is like pure gold in the midst of the dross, and can say in some measure with Job, "When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

Job 27:8

"For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he has gained, when God takes away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble comes upon him? Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?" Job 27:8-10

 

Many of God's people are at times exercised as to their hypocrisy, and sometimes they may think themselves the most consummate hypocrites that ever stood in a profession. But if you are exercised with these painful surmises, these doubts and fears, just see (and the Lord enable you to bring it to the light of his countenance) these two features of a spiritual character. Do not talk about your hope; it may be "a spider's web." Do not boast of your gifts; they may be altogether in the flesh. Do not bring forward the good opinion of men; they may be deceived concerning you. But just see if, with the Lord's blessing, you can feel these two tests in your soul, as written there by his own hand. If so, you are not a hypocrite; God himself, by his servant Job, has acquitted you of the charge.

 

Did you, then, ever "delight yourself in the Almighty?" It is a solemn question. Did your heart and soul ever go out after the living God? Did affection, love, and gratitude ever flow out of your bosom into the bosom of the Lord? Did you ever feel as if you could clasp him in the arms of faith, and live and die in his embrace? Now if your soul has ever felt this, you are no hypocrite; and nothing can rise up out of your wretched heart, as an accusing devil, that can prove you to be one.

 

Or if you cannot fully realize this, if you are one that always calls upon God, you are no hypocrite. I do not speak of your regular prayers, or any other of your regularities; for I believe that there is often more of God's Spirit, and more craving after God and delighting in him, in your irregularities, than in all the daily regularities which hypocrites delight in. But I mean, is there a sigh or cry by night, as well as by day; a pouring out of the heart into the bosom of God from time to time, as the Lord works it in you, in trouble, in perplexity, in sorrow, and in distress? This is a test and a mark which no hypocrite ever had or ever can have.

Job 28:7

"There is a path which no fowl knows, and which the vulture's eye has not seen." Job 28:7

 

Growth in grace is not progressive sanctification and fleshly holiness on the one hand, nor a false and delusive establishment on the other. The narrow path lies between these two extremes. On the one side is Pharisaic holiness, on the other Antinomian security; and between these two sharp rocks lies the "path which no fowl knows, and which the vulture's eye has not seen." From dashing on either of these rocks a living man is kept only by the mysterious dealings of God with his spirit, and the internal exercises through which he continually passes. A constant acquaintance with his own vileness preserves him from a self-righteous holiness in the flesh; a daily cross and a rankling thorn keep him from careless presumption. His path is indeed a mysterious one, full of harmonious contradictions and heavenly paradoxes. He is never easy when at ease, nor without a burden when he has none. He is never satisfied without doing something, and yet is never satisfied with anything that he does. He is never so strong as when he sits still, never so fruitful as when he does nothing, and never so active as when he makes the least haste. All outstrip him in the race, yet he alone gains the goal, and wins the prize. All are sure of heaven but himself, yet he enters into the kingdom, while they are thrust out. He wins pardon through guilt, hope through despair, deliverance through temptation, comfort through affliction, and a robe of righteousness through filthy rags. Though a worm and no man, he overcomes Omnipotence itself through violence; and though less than vanity and nothing, he takes heaven itself by force. Thus amid the strange contradictions which meet in a believing heart, he is never so prayerful as when he says nothing; never so wise as when he is the greatest fool; never so much alone as when most in company; and never so much under the power of an inward religion as when most separated from an outward one.

Job 34:21

"For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he sees their every step." Job 34:21

 

The Christian has to prove that nothing escapes the eye of a just and holy God; that he lays bare every secret thought, searches every hidden purpose, and scrutinizes every desire and every movement of the mind. He thus discovers and brings to light all the secret sins of the heart. Men in general take no notice of heart sins; if they can keep from overt sins in life, from open acts of immorality, they are satisfied. What passes in the secret chambers of imagery they neither see nor feel. Not so with the child of grace; he knows the experience described in Ps 139. He carries about with him the secret conviction that the eye of God reads every thought. Every inward movement of pride and self-righteousness, rebellion, discontent, peevishness, fretfulness, lust, and extravagance, he inwardly feels that the eye of God reads all, marks all, condemns by his righteous law all, and because he is so intrinsically pure, hates and abhors all.

 

Thus he proves, among the "all things" which are weighed up and measured in the inward court of conscience by the unerring standard of the word of truth, the light of the Spirit's teaching, and the workings of godly fear, that he is a sinner before God, and that of a deeper dye and more crimson hue than any other transgressor, for he sees and knows his own heart, which nobody else can see or know. He is indeed aware that many may have sinned more deeply and grossly as regards outward acts; but he feels that no one can have sinned inwardly more foully and continually than he; and this makes him say with Job, "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye sees you; wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6).

Psalm 3:3

"But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high." Ps 3:3

 

If your soul has ever been favored with a taste of mercy, with a sip of the brook by the way; if ever your conscience has felt the application of atoning blood, or the love of God has ever been shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit, when the law comes to curse you, endeavor always to bear in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ stands as the shield between you and its curse. The law has therefore nothing to do with you who believe, it has cursed Jesus Christ for you; as the Apostle declares, "He was made a curse for us;" and again, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." Therefore the law has nothing to do with you who believe in Christ Jesus. He has intercepted the curse for you, and, by receiving it into his own body and soul, bore it harmless away from you.

 

It is a blessed act of faith when you can thus take Christ in your arms and hold him up as a shield between the law and your conscience. And this the Apostle seems to hint at in a measure when he says, "Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one;" for many of these fiery darts are taken from the law. It is indeed a great and special act of faith thus to take Jesus Christ in the arms, and holding him up in the face of the law, to be able to say, "Law, you have nothing to do with me; Jesus has fulfilled all your righteous demands, and endured all your tremendous curses. He is my shield, to protect me from your condemning sentence; and all your curses are harmless; they all fall short of me, because they all fell wholly upon him."

 

I say this is a special act of faith, because we cannot do it except as divinely enabled. Otherwise, it would be but an act of presumption. I may add, also, that it is a very rare thing to be enabled so to take Christ and hold him up as a shield against the curses of the law; but when done under the influences and operations of the blessed Spirit, it is an act of faith which God approves of and honors. Nor is there any other shield to intercept its tremendous curse.

Psalm 4:6

"Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us." Ps 4:6

 

The cry of the Church has always been, "Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us." You may often feel as if immersed in the very shadow of death, and say with Heman, "I am counted with those who go down into the pit; I am as a man that has no strength" (Ps 88:4); but the very feelings of death, the chill at your heart, and the cold sweat upon your brow, make you long for the appearance of him who is the Resurrection and the Life; and who can in one moment whisper, "Fear not; I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death." You may be pressed down at times with the power of unbelief, and think and say there never was a heart like yours, so unable to believe, so doubting at every step; but this deep conviction of your wretched unbelief, which is the Spirit's work to show (Joh 16:9), only makes you long for that living faith of which Christ himself is not only the Object, but the Author and Finisher. You may be sunk at times in despondency, as to both your present and future state; but that makes you the more desire to have a good hope through grace, as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. You may feel at times the guilt, and not only the guilt, but the dreadful power and prevalence of sin; but that only makes you long the more earnestly for manifestations of pardon and peace, and that no sin may have dominion over you. "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it," that sooner or later you shall have every needful blessing. The valley you now feel to be in shall be exalted; the mountain and hill shall be made low; the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain, and your eye shall see the glory of the Lord; Christ shall be made precious to your heart; he will come sooner or later into your soul; and then when he comes he will manifest himself as your Lord and your God. And so you keep hanging, and hoping, and looking up until he appears; for your heart is still ever saying, "None but Jesus, can do helpless sinners good."

Psalm 9:10

"And those who know your name will put their trust in you." Ps 9:10

 

There is a knowing of God's name. By the "name of God" are to be understood the revealed perfections of the Almighty—all that he has revealed concerning himself in the Scriptures of truth. Every attribute, every perfection, everything that God has said of himself, is summed up in the "name of God."

 

But especially does the "name of God" signify the Son of his love, who is "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his Person;" as he said to Moses, "Behold, I send an Angel before you, to keep you in the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions—for my name is in him;" that is, all my revealed perfections, all my glorious character, all my divine attributes are in him; for "in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."

 

Now, there is a knowing this name of God; that is, there is such a thing as an experimental acquaintance in the soul with the perfections of God as revealed in the Scriptures. His name is therefore known when the perfections of God are revealed in the heart and conscience by the power of the Spirit. And this is by virtue of living faith in the soul. By faith we see God. By faith we know God. When we receive into our hearts the truth as it is in Jesus, and when we believe by living faith what God has said of himself in the word, then we know the name of God; and every manifestation of God's mercy, every token of God's favor, and every shining in of God's perfections, is a discovery in our hearts, a raising up in our souls of the knowledge of God's name.

Psalm 12:5

"The sighing of the needy." Ps 12:5

 

The distinguishing mark and character of a needy soul is to be full of needs. Day after day he needs divine realities to be revealed to his soul, to hear the sweet voice of mercy speaking into his heart, as from the lips of God himself, that he is an accepted child, that he may bathe, as it were, in sweet manifestations of the love and mercy of God. In the supply of need he believes the marrow of all true religion and vital godliness to consist. So that he cannot take up with his present state of need for religion. If he is in doubts and fears, or is passing through heavy temptations, and is writing bitter things against himself, he cannot say "this is religion;" but what he wants is something different from what he feels, even the blessed testimonies and manifestations that he is one of the Lord's own dear family; and I am very well assured from soul experience, that nothing but the application of heavenly blessings to the soul can ever satisfy the man who has had life implanted in his heart by the hand of God himself.

 

We therefore read of this needy person that he SIGHS. "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy." He is sighing after God; groaning in the depths of his soul after the lifting up of the light of God's countenance; sighing under the weight of unbelief, the burden of infidelity, the power of temptation, the wretchedness of his heart, the carnality of his mind, the barrenness of his frame, his stupidity, his brutality, filth and corruption. He is sighing to the Lord under the burden of these things lying as a load on his conscience, and begging the Lord that he would only lift up the light of his countenance, that he would only drop one sweet testimony, that he would speak but one word to his soul, to bring with it sweet deliverance, and lift him out into all the light, and life, and liberty, and peace of the glorious gospel of the blessed God.

Psalm 16:10

"For you will not leave my soul in hell; neither will you allow your Holy One to see corruption." Ps 16:10

 

When the adorable Lord by a voluntary act laid down his life, the last words that he spoke were, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." By his "spirit" we are to understand his human soul which at once went into paradise, into the immediate presence of God, as he intimated in the words, "And now come I to you" (Joh 17:13). Nor did he go there that day alone. A trophy was soon to follow him; the soul of that repenting, believing malefactor, who, a partner with him in suffering, had become by his sovereign grace a partner with him in glory.

 

There was, then, an actual separation of the Redeemer's body and soul; but this did not destroy or affect the union of his Deity with his humanity. That union remained entire, as his holy soul went into paradise in union with his Deity, and thus he was still God-man as much in paradise as he was at the tomb of Lazarus, or at the Last Supper. But his sacred body, though by the act of death life was gone out of it, still remained as before, "that holy thing." Death did not taint that sacred body any more than sin did not taint it in the womb of the Virgin. The promise was, therefore, "You will not leave my soul in hell [rather, in Hades, or that paradise in which it was after death], nor allow your Holy One to see corruption."

 

This holy body was essentially incorruptible, as being begotten of the Holy Spirit, by special and supernatural generation, of the flesh of the Virgin; but as in all other acts of the sacred Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all engaged that no taint of corruption should in death assail it. The Father promised, and as a God that cannot lie, performed by his almighty, superintending power; the Son, by the same innate, active, divine energy by which he assumed that body in the womb of the Virgin, preserved it untainted, uncorrupted in the grave; and the Holy Spirit who formed that body in its first conception, breathed over it his holy influence to maintain it, in spite of death and the tomb, as pure and as incorruptible as when he first created it.

 

These things are indeed difficult to understand or indeed conceive; but they are heavenly mysteries, which faith receives and holds fast in spite of sense, reason, and unbelief. For see the tremendous consequences of allowing any taint of corruption to assail that blessed body. Could a tainted body be resumed at the resurrection? Corruption would have marred it as it will mar ours; and how could a corrupt body have been again the habitation of the Son of God? We are often instrumentally preserved from error not only by knowing and feeling the sweetness and power of truth, but by seeing, as at a glance, the tremendous consequences which a denial of vital, fundamental truths involves.

Psalm 17:5

"Hold up my goings in your paths, that my footsteps slip not." Ps 17:5

 

Without scrupulously or superstitiously observing "days, and months, and times, and years," few of us altogether pass by so marked an epoch as the dawning of another year upon our path without some acknowledgment of it both to God and man. When we open our eyes on the first morning of the year, we almost instinctively say, "This is New-year's day." Nor is this, at least this should not be, all the notice we take, all the acknowledgment we make of that opening year of which we may not see the close.

 

When we bend our knees before the throne of grace, we mingle with thankful acknowledgment for the mercies of the past year, both in providence and in grace, earnest petitions for similar mercies to be experienced and enjoyed through the present. Last evening witnessed our confessions of the many, many grievous sins, wanderings, backslidings, and departings from the living God during the year now gone; this morning witnesses our supplications for grace to hold up our goings in his paths, that our footsteps slip not through the year just come. Tears are most suitable at the burial of the dead; hopes and desires at the birth of the living. The past year was the departed father, worn out with age and infirmity; the present year the new-born babe in the arms of the smiling mother. It is still, however, mid-winter. Today, the first of the present year, differs little in outward appearance from yesterday, the last of the past. But the thoughtful, prayerful mind takes little notice of wintry skies. It feels that the old, worn-out year has sunk into its grave, with all its trials and afflictions, and that a new year has come in its place, with its new hopes and new mercies; and if it bring new trials, yet that the promise still stands, that new strength will be given to meet and overcome them.

 

Refreshed and strengthened at the throne by such or similar communings with the God of all our mercies, we go down to meet our families, and are at once greeted on all sides with, "I wish you a happy new year," a greeting which we as warmly and affectionately return. Almost every friend, well-near every acquaintance that we meet with in the course of the day, greets us with the same kind wish. Now in all this there may be a great deal of formality, lip-service, and traditional usage; but there may be also a good deal of sincerity, kindness, and affection. We are not, surely, so shut up in miserable self as to have no desire for the health and happiness, the temporal and spiritual welfare, of our families, our friends, or even our acquaintances. And if we desire their good, we need not be backward or unwilling to express it in a few words of friendly greeting. "Be kind one to another, tender-hearted;" "Be sympathetic, be courteous;" "If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men," are precepts imbued with all the spirit of the gospel, and may be, indeed, should be, attended to without the least sacrifice of that faithfulness which becomes those who would daily walk in the fear of the Lord. There may be a form of kind words as well as "a form of sound words;" and as we may use the latter in perfect harmony with the doctrines of the gospel, so we may use the former in perfect harmony with the spirit of the gospel.

Psalm 19:8

"The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart—the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." Ps 19:8

 

As without a revelation of the doctrine of salvation we would not know how a sinner could be saved, and thus could not glorify God by our faith; so without a revelation of the precept we would not know how to serve God, and thus could not glorify him by our obedience. Look at this point, believing child of God. You long to glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are his (1Co 6:20). You desire, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, to do all to the glory of God (1Co 10:31). There are times and seasons with you when you sigh and mourn over your barren, unprofitable heart and life, and earnestly long to think and speak and act to his honor and glory who has done so much for you in providence and grace. At least, if you have no such desires you are no Christian, and are at the best but a poor, worldly, dead professor.

 

When, then, and how far do you live to God's glory? Only then, and only so far as your life, and walk, and conduct harmonize with, and are guided by the precepts of the word. For see the connection. We can only glorify God outwardly by doing his will; we can only know that will, as regards our practical obedience to it, by the express revelation which he has given of it. Where is that revelation? In his word, and chiefly in the preceptive part of it. It is this which makes it "a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path." David therefore cried—"Order my steps in your word;" "Make me to go in the path of your commandments;" "O that my ways were directed to keep your statutes!" as feeling that it was only by walking in the word and by the word that he could please God and live to his praise.

 

We find thousands in this land who, as they think, are doing God service by plans and schemes of their own devising, priding themselves on their good works. But we may say of all these their duties and doings what Augustine said of the ancient Roman virtues, that they are but "splendid sins", or, to use the language of the Church of England, entitled, Works before justification, "for that they are not done as God has willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin."

Psalm 20:1

"May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion." — Ps 20:1-2

 

When the soul has to pass through the trying hour of temptation, it needs help from the sanctuary. And nothing but help from the sanctuary can ever stand it in any stead. All other help leaves the soul just where it found it. Now why does the Lord send help from the sanctuary, but because the soul to whom help is sent, has a saving interest in the Father's love, the Savior's blood, and the Spirit's teachings—a saving interest in the eternal covenant transactions of the Three-One Jehovah. Help is sent him from the sanctuary, because his name has been from all eternity registered in the Lamb's book of life, engraved upon the palms of his hands, borne on his shoulder, and worn on his heart.

 

He was in the sanctuary when his covenant Head stood up on his behalf, and in the Lord's book all his members were written when as yet there was none of them. He was then virtually in the sanctuary before all time, and he will be personally in the sanctuary after all time. But he must be "made fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light." As he is predestinated to inhabit that sanctuary, he must have a nature suited for its holy delights. Now it is receiving help from the sanctuary that fits him to inhabit it. Communications of life and grace out of it make him a new creature, and produce spirituality and heavenly-mindedness. The breath of heaven in his soul draws his affections upward, weans him from earth, and makes him a pilgrim and a sojourner here below, "looking for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb 11:10).

Psalm 22:4

"Our fathers trusted in you—they trusted, and you delivered them. They cried unto you, and were delivered—they trusted in you, and were not confounded." Ps 22:4-5

 

O what a blessed thing it is to have in one's own bosom a secret trust in Jesus—that while so many are looking to something in themselves or in one another, resting their eternal salvation on works that really are but the sports of a child, the saint of God is reposing upon the Lord of life and glory! On him he hangs his hope, and in him he puts his trust. These the Lord will honor; nor will he ever disappoint their hope or put their confidence to shame. Whoever trusted in the Lord and was confounded? If you are enabled to trust in him, to believe his faithful word, to discard all creature confidence and to hang the weight of your soul—and O what a weight is that!—upon a faithful, covenant-keeping God, he will never leave, fail, or forsake you. You may find it hard to trust in him at all times or indeed at any time. You may feel a desire of something sensible—something to see or hear, distinct from faith. Look not for this. We walk by faith, not by sight. It must be a naked trust in an invisible God. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses—but we will remember the name of the Lord our God." And if you are enabled so to trust, he will make it manifest sooner or later in your own conscience that you are one of the righteous; light will beam upon your path; glory will dawn upon your heart, and you will have the end of your faith, even the salvation of your soul.

Psalm 23:4

"Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil—for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Ps 23:4

 

Death, the gaunt king of terrors; Death, who with his scythe in his resistless hand, mows down whole millions of the human race; Death, who awaits his victims at every corner; Death, that must soon lay you and I low in the grave, casts a shadow wherever he comes. He visits the sick room, and casts a shadow there; he hangs over the cradle, and his shadow falls on the infant's face; he comes in the letter from abroad, or with the black seal and mourning envelope put into our hand at home; and these tidings or these tokens cast a deep shadow over our hearts. Indeed, where is the place where death does not cast his shadow? where the house where this shade has never fallen? In fact, he never comes without it. He is "the last enemy;" he is the final fulfillment of the original curse.

 

And though death, to a saint of God, is stripped of its terrors, robbed of its sting, and disarmed of its victory; though, to the expiring believer it is but a portal of life into the mansions of eternal bliss, yet, say what we may, the portal casts a shadow. Even David, though full of sweet confidence that "the Lord was his shepherd," at the very time when "his cup ran over" with the Lord's goodness and love, calls it "the valley of the shadow of death." "The rod and the staff" comforted him, and he "feared no evil," but it was still "a valley," overhung by frowning mountains and dark, overarching woods, and "the shadow of death" was spread upon it from the entrance to the end. And yet it is but a "shadow."

 

To the graceless, the Christless, the impenitent, the unbelieving, it is a substance, for the wrath of God, which burns to the lowest hell, awaits them at the end of the valley, to plunge them into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. But to those who die in the Lord, in the sweet enjoyment of peace through his blood, it is but a passing shadow. For them the substance died when Jesus died. It was buried in his tomb, but did not rise with him, for he destroyed it when he "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light."

Psalm 25:4

"Show me your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths." Ps 25:4

 

To lie with a broken heart and contrite spirit at the footstool of mercy beseeching God to teach us, is indeed a blessed spot to be in. It is the evidence of a childlike spirit, and shows such simplicity, reality, and genuineness that it bears stamped upon it the indubitable marks of true discipleship. Wherever we see such a coming out of SELF, with a renunciation of our own wisdom, strength, and righteousness, such a putting aside of all creature religion, and such a real spirit of humility before God, we must receive it as something beyond and above nature. Nothing but the power of God seems able to bring a soul so completely out of the shell and crust of self-righteousness, and so to lay open its spiritual nakedness before him.

 

Naturally there is something very sweet in seeing a docile, teachable disposition. And on the other hand, few things are more offensive than the pride of ignorance, the abominable conceit of people who think they know everything when really they know nothing, but are too proud to be taught.

 

The only road to knowledge is to possess a meek, teachable, inquiring spirit, a willingness to learn springing out of a consciousness of ignorance. This spirit is what we see sometimes in children, nor is there a more pleasant sight for parent or instructor than to see a child docile; earnestly seeking information, and glad to receive instruction. If anything can open the mouth to teach, it is finding such a disposition to learn.

 

So in grace; where there is a humble, quiet, docile spirit, it seems to draw forth out of the Lord's heart and mouth these secrets of heavenly wisdom which he hides from others; as he spoke in the days of his flesh, "I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes." The babes are those who are teachable and childlike, and to whom as such God reveals the treasures of his heavenly wisdom.

Psalm 25:5

"Lead me in your truth, and teach me." Ps 25:5

 

By what steps do we usually embrace the truth as it is in Jesus? First of all, for the most part, we receive it as a doctrine; the judgment being more or less informed, the eyes of the understanding being enlightened to see it in the word. The doctrine for some time may be floating in our mind; but after a time, as the Lord leads us more into a knowledge of our own hearts, and into a deeper feeling of our necessities, he lets down the truth from our head into the heart, and it then becomes a truth. It is very sweet to have a doctrine turned into a truth.

 

But after a time, we need something more than a truth; we need it as a blessing. When we are brought into pressing straits and severe trials, we need the doctrines which we first received into our minds as truths, now to be blessed by a divine application to our souls. Thus, what we first knew in our judgments as a doctrine, is afterwards received in our conscience as a truth, and then is applied to our very heart of hearts as a blessing; and so we find God's word, and eat it, to the joy and rejoicing of our souls.

 

Thus it is with respect to Christ's ascension. We receive it first as a doctrine, as a great and glorious part of the scheme of salvation; then we begin to see, as we are led, more and more into a knowledge of it, what a wonderful truth it is, to have a Mediator at the right hand of God; to have an Intercessor pleading by the efficacy of his atoning blood and justifying righteousness, for poor, needy, guilty souls. This draws out the faith, hope, and love of the heart to this ascended and interceding Mediator; and then, as the Lord the Spirit reveals the virtue and efficacy of this glorious Mediator in the guilty conscience, the truth becomes a rich, unctuous, and savory blessing.

 

So that so far from experience casting out the doctrines of grace, it only leads the soul into a vital acquaintance with them; and we might as well think of saving our lives by drawing the bones out of our body, as of blessing our souls by casting out the doctrines of grace; yes, we daily feel more deeply the need of the doctrines being brought into our heart by divine power; we feel them more to be the stay and support of our soul, as my arm when raised is stayed and supported by the bones which God has placed there.

 

"Lead me in your truth, and teach me." — Ps 25:5

 

What wonderful things does God sometimes show us in his word! How our eyes sometimes seem to be anointed with eye-salve "to behold wondrous things out of God's law!" (Ps 119:18.) Sometimes in reading a chapter we see such beauty, such fullness, such sweetness, such glory in it, that it seems, as it were, to fill our very hearts. And what our souls need (I am sure my soul needs it, and it is my frequent cry to the Lord in secret that I may feel it) is to have this blessed truth taken out of the word of God, and applied to and sealed upon our hearts by the Spirit of God.

 

I need no 'new revelation'. Day by day I seem more satisfied of this, and more established in it—that all saving truth is in the word of God. I seek no visions, I desire no dreams, I want no airy speculations; but when my heart is brought to lie at the footstool of mercy, this seems to be the panting and breathing of my soul—to know experimentally and spiritually the blessed truths that my eyes see in the word of God, to have them opened up to my understanding, brought into my heart, grafted into my soul, applied to my conscience, and revealed with such supernatural and heavenly power that the truth as it is in Jesus may be in me a solemn and saving reality, that it may bring with it such a divine blessing as to fill me with grace, enlarge my heart into the enjoyment of the gospel, gird up my loins with spiritual strength, give and increase faith, communicate and encourage hope, shed abroad and draw forth love, and fill me with joy and peace in believing.

Psalm 25:12

"What man is he that fears the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose." Ps 25:12

 

In all the multiplicity and variety of circumstances that have distressed the children of God, has the Lord ever taken a wrong step? Though he has baffled nature, though he has disconcerted reason, though he has turned our plans upside down, though perhaps he has done the thing that we most feared, and thwarted every natural purpose and inclination of our heart—can we say that he has erred? that he has made a mistake? that he has acted unwisely? that he has not done that which is for our spiritual good?

 

Murmuring, rebellious, unbelieving heart, hold your peace! Shall man, foolish man, a worm of the earth, a creature of a day, lift up his puny voice and say that God can mistake? Your path is very dark, very intricate, very perplexed; you cannot see the hand of God in the trial that is now resting upon you; you cannot believe that it will work together for your good. I admit it. I have felt it. I have known it. But the time will come, when this dark path in which you are now walking, shall be seen full of radiancy and light, when you will prove the truth of these words, "He brought the blind by a way that they knew not."

 

When we know God to be infinitely wise, that he cannot err, that all his dealings must be stamped with his own eternal wisdom, we are silenced, we hold our peace, we have nothing to say, we are where Aaron was. When Nadab and Abihu were smitten by the Lord, Aaron knew that God could not err; he held his peace (Le 10:3). This is our right spot. If we know anything of the folly of the creature—if we know anything of the wisdom of God—this is our spot. When our dear Nadabs and Abihus are smitten before our face, our spot is to hold our peace, to put our mouth in the dust; for God is still accomplishing his object, in the face, and in spite of nature, sense, and reason.

Psalm 25:14

"The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him; and he will show them his covenant." Ps 25:14

 

"The secret of the Lord" (that is, present possession) "IS with those who fear him; and he WILL show them" (that is, something future) "his covenant." This shows, that while all the people of God, who fear his name, have the secret with them, that is, a measure of the secret, yet all the people of God have not the covenant revealed to them at the same time with the secret. The "secret" is in the present tense; the "showing of the covenant" is in the future.

 

It is very sweet to see how the Holy Spirit has discriminated between these blessings. If, for instance, it had run thus, "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him, and he shows to them his covenant," some doubting, desponding child of God might say, "How can I be one of those that fear God? for it says, God shows to them his covenant, and he has not shown it to me yet." But being put in the future tense, "he will show to them his covenant," it takes the form of a promise, and so is just adapted and sweetly suited to their needs. This covenant is the covenant that "stands fast for evermore;" the everlasting covenant of grace, which stands in the Person, love, blood, and work of the Son of God; the covenant made by a Triune Jehovah, on behalf of the elect, before the world was.

 

What a suitable foundation for a poor tottering heart! The Lord in showing this covenant unto those who fear him, shows them that it is all of grace, and therefore meets all their unworthiness and superabounds over all the aboundings of their sin; that it is more than a match for their aggravated iniquities, and will land them safe in glory, because God has determined to bring them there. Nothing but a covenant of grace can suit a poor tried soul, who knows his helplessness and worthlessness; and the Lord shows this to those who fear him.

Psalm 35:3

"Say unto my soul, I am your salvation." — Ps 35:3

 

To keep water fresh, it must be perpetually running. And to keep the life of God up in the soul, there must be continual exercises. This is the reason why the Lord's people have so many conflicts, trials, painful exercises, sharp sorrows, and deep temptations—to keep them alive unto God; to bring them out of, and to keep them out of that slothful, sluggish, wretched state of carnal security and dead assurance in which so many seem to have fallen asleep—fallen asleep like the sailor upon the top of the mast, not knowing what a fearful gulf is boiling up below. The Lord, therefore, "tries the righteous." He will not allow his people to be at ease in Zion; to be settled on their lees, and get into a wretched Moabitish state. He therefore sends afflictions upon them, tribulations, and trials, and allows Satan to tempt and harass them.

 

And under these feelings the blessed Spirit, from time to time, raises up in them this sigh and cry, "Say unto my soul, I am your salvation." None but yourself, Lord, can save me; nothing short of your voice can whisper peace to my conscience; nothing short of your blood can speak away guilt from lying as a heavy burden upon my heart; nothing short of your love shed abroad by the Holy Spirit can make my soul happy in yourself.

Psalm 37:5

"Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass." — Ps 37:5

 

What shall God bring to pass? The thing that lies deepest in the heart—"your way." Does not 'your way' lie deepest in your soul—the path that God has led, the path that God is now leading you by? You may be troubled in your soul, doubting and fearing in your mind, distressed in your feelings; you may sink down to the lowest point that a child of God can sink to; yet that way, in which you are so deeply sunk, if the Lord enables you from time to time to commit it to him, and trust in him, he will bring to pass above what your heart desires.

 

Look at the movements of your heart God-ward; look at your predicaments, temptations, and trials; look at that which rolls backwards and forwards in your mind, that which is tossed to and fro on the waves of your anxious bosom—what lies nearest, dearest, and deepest—let honest conscience speak. That, whatever it be, the Lord tells you, and sometimes enables you to commit, to trust to him.

 

Now whatever it be—so committed and so trusted, the Lord has declared in his unerring word of truth, he "will bring it to pass;" he will fulfill it when his time has arrived. Does darkness envelope it? do mountains of difficulty stand up in the way of its fulfillment? Never mind; God will bring it to pass in the face of all, over mountains and through difficulties, in spite of, and in the midst of, all surrounding obstacles. He "will bring it to pass,"—that which lies deepest in your heart, nearest your affections, and that which you are enabled in the actings of living faith sometimes to commit into the hands of the Lord God Almighty.

Psalm 37:16

"Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked." Ps 37:16

 

Hard may be your lot here below, you suffering saints of the most High, as regards external matters; painful may be the exercises through which you almost daily pass, through the rebellion and desperate wickedness of your carnal mind; grievous temptations may be your continual portion; many a pricking thorn and sharp brier may lie in your path; and so rough and rugged may be the road, that at times you may feel yourself of all men to be the most miserable; and so indeed you would be but for the grace of God in your heart now, and the glory prepared for you beyond the grave.

 

Yet with it all, were your afflictions and sorrows a thousand times heavier, well may it be said of you—"Happy, thrice happy, are you, O Israel!" Whom upon earth need you envy if you have the grace of God in your heart? With whom would you change, if ever the love of God has visited your soul? Look around you; fix your eyes upon the man or woman who seems surrounded with the greatest amount of earthly happiness, and then ask your own conscience—"Would I change with you, you butterfly of fashion, or with you, you gilded dragon-fly, that merely live your little day; sunning yourself for a few hours beneath the summer sun, and then sinking into the dark and dismal pool which awaits you at evening-tide?"

 

Then with all your cares at home and abroad—with all your woes and trials, sunk under which you feel yourself at times one of the most miserable beings that can crawl along in this valley of tears—would you change with anybody, however healthy, or rich, or favored with the largest amount of personal prosperity, if at the same time destitute of the grace of God?

Psalm 37:39

"But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord—he is their strength in the time of trouble." — Ps 37:39

 

Times of trouble try the saint of God, and they are meant to do so; that is the very purpose why they are sent, for "the Lord tries the righteous." Still the promise holds good—"he is their strength in the time of trouble." When he breaks up the fountains of the great deep of sin and iniquity, he strengthens his people that they may not be carried away by the flood. When he hides his face, he strengthens them to say, "Though he slays me, yet will I trust in him." When temptation besets them severely, when they are put into the furnace, the Lord is with them there, as he was with the three men whom Nebuchadnezzar cast in. The Son of God is there with them, so that not a hair of their head is singed, nor does the smell of fire pass upon them (Da 3:27).

 

In all their afflictions he is afflicted, and by sharing it with them supports them under it. He is thus their strength; for he strengthens them with strength in their soul. He enables them to bear the weighty cross—to sustain the heavy load of trial and affliction—to put their mouth in the dust as needing and deserving his chastising strokes, and submit to his righteous dispensations and dealings as plainly sent by a gracious and loving hand.

 

And ever and anon he drops in a sustaining word, gives an encouraging look, bestows a soft and healing touch, and thus helps them to wait in faith and hope until in due time he sends full deliverance. Thus he helps and delivers, and will do so in every time of trouble down to their dying-bed, when he will give them their full and final deliverance from the body of sin and death, and a world full of iniquity and sorrow.

Psalm 38:9

"Lord, all my desire is before you; and my groaning is not hidden from you." — Ps 38:9

 

Many of the Lord's people cannot clearly read their names in the book of life; many are the doubts and fears that work in their bosom whether the Lord really has begun a work of grace upon their souls, and whether they truly are among the Lord's living family. But this thing they must know—whether at times and seasons they can lie in humility at the footstool of mercy, and appeal to a heart-searching God—"All my desire is before you." They must know whether they ever fell down in humility and brokenness of heart before the divine Majesty, and felt these living desires going out of their bosom into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath; and whether they can, with honesty, uprightness, and godly sincerity, say to the Lord in the language before us, "O Lord, all my desire is before you." "You see my heart, and know everything that passes in my troubled breast." If you can say that, it is a mark of life. If that has been the feeling of your heart from time to time, you find it was the same feeling that worked in the bosom of David. And God saw fit that it should be written by the finger of the Spirit, and placed upon solemn record for the consolation and encouragement of souls in similar circumstances.

Psalm 39:7

"And now, Lord, what do wait I for? my hope is in you." Ps 39:7

 

True religion is a very simple thing. Simplicity is stamped upon all the works of God, and especially upon the work of grace. The more genuine, therefore, our religion is, the more simple it will be. To be simple is to be child-like, and to be child-like is to have that mind and spirit without which no man can enter into the kingdom of heaven. Can we, then, with this child-like simplicity, walk step by step here with David, and follow him throughout? Can we put our seal to these things, and say, "Lord, what do wait I for?" Is your religion brought into this narrow point? "Truly, my soul waits upon God; from him comes my salvation." "My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from him."

 

Such a frame of soul is indeed from the hand of God, for no man ever did, or could bring himself into it. And if we can enter into one part of these heavenly breathings, we shall be able also to enter into the others, and say, "My hope is in you." Feeling the weight and burden of sin, we shall be constrained to cry, "Deliver me from all my transgressions;" and feeling our own weakness, and the evil of our hearts, we shall add, "Make me not the reproach of the foolish." If, then, we can sincerely, before God, employ these petitions, may we not ask who produced them? Who wrought this experience in the soul? From whose hands did it come? Surely, surely, the same Lord that taught David, must have taught us; the same power that wrought in him, must have wrought in us, before we could, in sweet experience, enter into this feeling language, and adopt it as our own. Here, therefore, we see a little of what true religion is; here we see what are the genuine breathings of a child-like spirit, and what is the experience of a man of God; and it will be our mercy if we can see in his experience a sweet counterpart of our own.

Psalm 39:8

"Make me not the reproach of the foolish." Ps 39:8

 

Who are these "foolish?" I think the best answer to this question is given by our Lord himself, in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. "The foolish" were those who had oil in their lamps, but none in their vessels. By "the foolish" in the text, therefore, we may understand those who have the light of knowledge in their heads, and the lamp of profession in their hands, but no oil of grace in their hearts. They are "foolish," because they know neither God nor themselves, neither sin nor salvation, neither the depth of the fall nor the greatness of the remedy. They are "foolish," as regards themselves, in thinking that light and knowledge will save them, without life and grace; and they are "foolish," as regards others, for lack of an experimental acquaintance with the heart. They know nothing, therefore, of the temptations of a child of God; how he is beset on every hand; how Satan is ever thrusting at or enticing him; how his own heart is continually prompting him to evil; and how snares are in every direction laid for his feet. "The foolish" know nothing of these trials; they are Pharisees, who "make clean the outside of the cup and platter," who whitewash and adorn the sepulcher outside, while within it is "full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."

 

David knew well, and every child of God knows well, that if he were allowed to slip, if he were allowed to say or do anything unbecoming, these would be the very first to make him an open reproach. "The foolish" can, and will, make no allowances for the least slip of tongue or foot, for they themselves are ignorant of the weakness of the flesh, the subtlety of Satan, the strength of sin, and the power of temptation. Were he to stumble and fall, "the foolish" would be sure to point the finger of scorn at him. In breathing forth, then, this petition, we may well suppose him to say, "Lord, whatever temptations I may be called upon to endure, whatever snares of Satan or lusts of the flesh may beset my path behind and before, O keep me, keep me that I may not be 'the reproach of the foolish;' that they may have nothing to take hold of, to make me a bye-word, and through me to reproach your name, cause, and truth."

Psalm 40:17

"I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me." — Ps 40:17

 

Are there not solemn seasons in your soul, when you think upon the Lord? When you lie awake, perhaps at midnight, thinking upon God, upon his truth, his love, his word, his dealings with your soul, and your desires, prayers, and breathings all flow forth to his sacred Majesty—is not this some evidence that you are thinking upon his name? And be assured that if you think upon him, he has thought upon you.

 

Look at the giddy multitude. Do they think upon God? Is Jesus ever felt to be precious to their souls? Do they pant after him as the deer after the water-brooks? No; their language is, "There is no God." It is not their spoken language, but it is their inward language.

 

But through mercy you can say, that you think upon God; and thus there is some evidence, though you cannot rise up to the assurance of it—that he thinks upon you. And if he thinks upon you, his thoughts are thoughts of good, thoughts of peace, and not of evil. Does he not read your heart? Does not his holy eye look into the very secret recesses of your soul? And if he thinks upon you, will he leave you, give you up, abandon you in the hour when you need him most? No; he who thought upon you in eternity, will think on you in time, in every trial, every temptation, every sickness, and in the solemn hour when soul and body part. Through life and death he will still think on you; and will bring you at last to that heavenly abode where these two things will be blessedly combined—the Lord's ever thinking upon his Zion, and his Zion ever thinking upon him.

Psalm 42:1

"As the deer pants after the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, O God." Ps 42:1

 

What a striking figure has David made use of in these words. Conceive a wounded stag, with the arrow in his flank or pursued by a crowd of hunters and hounds, all eager to pull him down; conceive him to have run for some space of time under a burning sun and over heaps of sand; and conceive that at a distance this poor wounded or hunted animal sees water gently flowing along. Oh, how it pants! How its heaving sides gasp, and how it longs for the cooling stream, not only that it may drink large draughts of the fresh waters and lave its panting flanks and weary, parched limbs—but, by swimming across, may haply escape the dogs and hunters at its heels. How strong, how striking the figure.

 

And yet strong as it is, how earnestly does David employ it to set forth the panting of his soul after God. We cannot, perhaps, rise up into the fullness of this figure; we cannot, we dare not lay our feelings stretched fully out side by side with his, or use the same burning, vehement, ardent expressions. But we may at least see from them what the saints of God have experienced in times of temptation and trial in days of old; and we may in some measure compare the feelings of our soul with theirs—sometimes to fill us with shame and confusion at our short-comings, sometimes to stimulate and encourage us so far as we experience a degree of similar teachings; for these things are written for our instruction, "upon whom the ends of the world are come."

 

Thus in various ways and to various ends we may, with God's help and blessing, look at and into such expressions as we find in the words of David, and in the fear of God search our hearts to see if we can find anything there corresponding to the work of grace that the Holy Spirit describes as existing in his soul. Nor be utterly cast down nor wholly discouraged if you cannot find a full or close similarity. Can you find any? If so, take encouragement, for the Lord despises not the day of small things. It is his own work upon the heart and his own work alone to which he has regard, as David felt when he said, "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me—your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the works of your own hands" (Ps 138:8). And that work will ever be a copy in full or in miniature, a complete or reduced photograph, of the work of grace described in the Scripture as carried on by the Spirit in the hearts of God's saints of old.

Psalm 42:2

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." Ps 42:2

 

Has your heart ever panted after the Lord Jesus as the deer pants after the water brooks? Do you ever lie in the dust mourning over your sins against the bleeding, dying love of Jesus? Do you ever ask God to kindle in your soul an intense desire to have Jesus as your Christ, that he may be your delight here and your portion forever? Surely there is that in him which is not in anything below the skies, and which if not found here will not be found hereafter. If you have no love or affection for him, why is it but because he has not endeared himself to your soul? But if he has manifested himself to you, you have seen and felt enough of his blessedness to convince you that there is no real peace or happiness out of him.

 

It is true that you may have many trials and temptations to encounter; many perplexities and sorrows may be spread in your path; but be not dismayed, for the love of Christ, if you have ever felt that love shed abroad in your heart, will bear you more than conqueror through them all. The Lord make and keep us faithful to the truth as it has been made known to our consciences; and may the goodness and mercy of God shine into our hearts and shed abroad its rays of light and joy in our darkest moments and under our severest trials. And O to be found in him at the great day, as members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, to be found the Lord's "peculiar treasure" in that day when he makes up his jewels! And O then, where will be those who are not found in the Lord Jesus? They will call upon the mountains and the rocks to "fall on them and hide them from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."

Psalm 43:3

"O send out your light and your truth—let them lead me; let them bring me unto your holy hill, and to your tabernacles." —Ps 43:3

 

A spiritually living man cannot, in his right mind, bear the idea of standing still, that is to say, standing still so as to have no spiritual work going on within; and still less can he bear the idea of going backward. He wants to go forward. He is often dissatisfied with his state; he feels how little he knows; he is well aware of the shallowness of his attainments in the divine life, as well as of the ignorance and the blindness that are in him; and therefore, laboring under the feeling of his own shortcomings for the past, his helplessness for the present, and his ignorance for the future, he wants to go forward wholly and solely in the strength of the Lord, to be led, guided, directed, kept, not by the wisdom and power of the creature, but by the supernatural entrance of light and truth into his soul. The mercy-seat is continually covered with clouds; God hides himself, and he cannot behold him; the truth seems obscured so that he cannot realize it. He often cannot find his way to Christ; he cannot perceive the path of life, nor whether his feet are in that path. He sees so few marks of grace in his soul, and feels so powerfully the workings of sin and corruption; he finds so few things for him and so many things against him, that he often staggers, and is perplexed in his mind, and seems almost to come to a feeling in his heart, that he is destitute of the grace of God altogether, that the secret of the Lord is not with him, but that he is a hypocrite in Zion, who has never had even the beginning of wisdom communicated to his soul.

 

"O send out your light and your truth." Ps 43:3

 

"O send out your light." The Psalmist desired that light might be sent out, that is, that there might be a communication of it. The soul walking in darkness, and enabled under that darkness to pant and cry after light, is not satisfied with the conviction, however deep, that with God is light. The thirsty man is not satisfied with knowing that there is water in the well; nor the man who has lost his way in a mine, with knowing that there is light in the sun. One faint ray gleaming through a chink were worth to him a thousand suns, blazing, unseen by him, in the sky. And thus the benighted saint cannot rest in the bare knowledge that "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all," but his sigh and cry is that this light may be sent out of the fullness of the Godhead into his soul, so as to shed abroad an inward light in his heart, whereby he may see the truth of God; whereby he may see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; whereby he may see his name written in the book of life, and clearly discern his saving interest in the "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure;" whereby he may see Jesus, and in seeing Jesus see his own eternal union with Jesus, and in seeing his own eternal union with Jesus may enjoy sweet communion with him, so as to feel his presence in his soul, and have his glory revealed, and manifested to his heart.

 

David wanted something more than light. He says, "O send out your light and your truth." What was "the truth" which he sought to know, and realize its inward power by its being sent out of the fullness of the Godhead? Doubtless, the very same truth that saints are crying to be sent out now; and this can be nothing less than "the truth as it is in Jesus;" the truth of his blood as atoning for sin, the truth of his righteousness as justifying us from all things from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses; the truth of personal and everlasting deliverance from all curse and condemnation, that truth whereby the soul is made free, according to those words, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free;" the truth whereby the affections are separated from the things of time and sense, and fixed on the realities of eternity; in a word, to know Jesus himself, by his own sweet revelation, for he is "the way, the truth, and the life," and that he may be himself enjoyed in our soul as the sum and substance of truth.

Psalm 45:13

"The king's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in clothing of needlework."—Ps 45:13-14

 

This is a beautiful description of the bridal garments of the Church as the queen. The gold was to be wrought into her clothing, the clothing to be of needlework, intimating that her robe of justifying righteousness was wrought, as it were, as in needlework, stitch by stitch; yet that every thread was embroidered with gold. Here we have the thread of the humanity, in union with the gold of Deity—and yet each in such close union that the thread is but one. In gold thread the beauty, the value is in the gold; yet how close the union. Gold by itself could not be made into embroidery. So Deity cannot suffer, bleed, or die; but humanity can in union with it. Thus, as our blessed Lord went through the whole work which the Father gave him to do, his Deity, being in union with his obeying, suffering humanity, stamped each successive movement, as he went through it, with all the value and validity of Godhead. It is this union of Deity with humanity which made the work of redeeming love so unspeakably glorious, and so meritoriously efficacious. As Hart says, "Almighty God sighed human breath."

 

It is indeed a mystery; but "great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh." O glorious mystery!

 

"The highest heavens are short of this;

'Tis deeper than the vast abyss;

'Tis more than thought can e'er conceive,

Or hope expect, or faith believe."

 

Philpot

Psalm 46:1

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Ps 46:1

 

The Christian who has known what it is to worship God in spirit and in truth has a God to help him in his direst extremities; for as long as the spirit of prayer abides in his bosom—and that spirit once given is never taken away—he can at times and seasons pour out his heart before God, and find help and strength in him. This, then, is one of his blessed resources, that he has a God to go to, the Lord Almighty, into whose ears his cries may enter. But besides this, all the promises are on his side, which are yes and amen in Christ Jesus. Nor is he without sword or shield, or the whole armor of God. Nor is he without faith and hope, or secret supplies of strength made perfect in weakness. Nor is he without a knowledge of the truth, nor destitute of evidences of a saving interest in it.

 

Thus, let a Christian be involved in the greatest perplexity, there is still the voice of prayer in his bosom, and still the goings up and actings of a living faith upon the Son of God who has been manifested to his soul, still the firm anchorings of hope within the veil. He is not like a sailor cast upon a wide ocean without rudder, chart, or compass. He knows what to do; he knows what course to steer; he knows the land to which his eyes are ever directed. Let him sink into the greatest perplexity, he still knows there is at the right hand of the Father a Jesus, upon whom help is laid as one that is mighty.

 

Still, still the solemn fact is recorded deep in his mind, an ineffaceable impression has been left upon his soul from former discoveries of the King in his beauty, that this Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him. Thus he is not left without resource, help, or hope.

Psalm 48:2

"Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King." Ps 48:2

 

We have sometimes thought that the reason why Zion typically represents the royal throne of Jesus, is by many not well understood. Mount Zion literally was a steep hill of Jerusalem, so steep and inaccessible that for generations after the children of Israel had gained possession of the land, it still remained, like a little Gibraltar, in the hands of the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the place. "As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out—"but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day" (Jos 15:63).

 

But when David was anointed king over Israel, and had reigned at Hebron seven years and six months, he cast his eyes toward Jerusalem, as a preferable metropolis, and a more suitable seat of his extended empire. But as long as the hill of Zion was occupied by the warlike Jebusites, they would retain their command of the lower city. His first step, therefore, was, with the help of God, to dispossess the Jebusites of this their stronghold. But so strong was this hill-fort by nature and are, that the Jebusites ridiculed all his attempts to capture it, putting on the ramparts "the blind and the lame" soldiers of the garrison, what we would call the worn-out invalids of the army, as if these Chelsea pensioners, who could neither see nor walk, were amply sufficient to baffle all David's attempts at its capture (2Sa 5:6-8).

 

Joab, however, as a prize set before him, for which he was to be David's chief captain, mounted the hill, smote the lame and the blind on the wall, and the Jebusites behind the wall, and won possession of the coveted spot (1Ch 11:6). There David henceforward dwelt, as its conqueror, as in a castle; there he fixed his royal abode, and thence he swayed his scepter over the whole land of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba. Its very name was typical, for it signifies literally, "sunny," or "shine upon," as facing the south, and ever basking in the rays of the warm sun. Thus the sunny hill of Zion, as a hill of conquest, and as the royal seat of David, became a suitable type of the throne of Jesus in the courts above, won by lawful conquest (Re 3:21), where is now his royal palace, and where he rules and reigns as the anointed King of heaven and earth. Thus mount Zion typically represents not the cross, but the crown; not the law, but the gospel; not the battle, but the victory.

Psalm 51:1

"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; according unto the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions." Ps 51:1

 

This psalm is very suitable to the needs and feelings of every sensible sinner, for it is not necessary to have committed David's sin to have a measure of David's repentance and confessions, and of David's desires, breathings, and supplications. "Have mercy upon me, O God," he says, "according to your loving-kindness." To ask God to have mercy upon us is one of the first cries that a convinced sinner puts up to God. It was so with the tax-collector in the temple; and where it is sincere, God will certainly hear it "according to his loving-kindness," for he is full of love and kindness to poor, mourning sinners.

 

How the psalmist also begs of the Lord to "blot out his transgressions according unto the multitude of his tender mercies." As our sins in thought, word, and deed are a countless multitude, of which every one deserves hell, we need "the multitude of his most tender mercies" to blot them out. We may see the stars in the sky, the sands on the sea-shore, the drops of dew on the grass, the waves rolling in upon the beach; but both our sins and God's tender mercies exceed them all. How he showed these tender mercies in giving his dear Son to suffer, bleed, and die for miserable sinners; and how we need all these tender mercies to pity and pardon us and our transgressions.

 

And how earnestly David begged, "Wash me throughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." It is only the washing of God himself that can wash us throughly. If we could shed an ocean of tears it would not wash away one sin; but the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. In order to make us know this, the Lord shows us and makes us feel the guilt and burden of sin, and that we can do nothing to put it away. Pardon must be his own free gift, and that every sensible sinner is made to feel.

Psalm 51:17

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit—a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Ps 51:17

 

The heart that feels the burden of, sin, that suffers under temptation, that groans beneath Satan's fiery assaults, that bleeds under the wounds inflicted by committed evil, is broken and contrite. This brokenness of heart and contrition of spirit is a thing which a child of God alone can feel. However hard his heart at times may seem to be, there will be seasons of spiritual reviving; however he may seem steeled against any sense of love and mercy, or even of misery and guilt, from time to time when he is least expecting and looking for it, there will be a breaking down of his soul before the Lord; there will be a bewailing of himself, a turning from the world to seek the Lord's favor, and a casting himself as a sinner once more on undeserved mercy, tears will flow down his cheeks, sighs burst from his bosom, and he will lie humble at the Savior's feet. If your soul has ever felt this, you have a better thing than any gift; for this brokenness of spirit is a thing that accompanies salvation, and is a sacrifice that God will not despise.

Psalm 55:19

"Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God." Ps 55:19

 

True religion is certainly the most weighty, and yet the most mysterious matter that we ever have had or can have to do with in this world. And I will tell you this, that it will either comfort you, or it will distress you. It will either exercise your mind, trouble your soul, cast down your spirit, and make you truly miserable, or else be the source of your choicest comfort and your greatest happiness. From religion come our deepest sorrows and highest joys, the greatest uneasiness and the sweetest peace.

 

There is this peculiar feature about true religion, that in the greatest prosperity it may be the cause to us of the chief trouble, or in the greatest adversity be to us the cause of the purest joy. What are wealth or health, rank or titles, and every comfort the world can afford to a wounded spirit? What are poverty, sickness, persecution, contempt, a garret or a prison to a soul basking in the smiles of eternal love?

 

Religion will surely make itself felt wherever it exists, and will testify by its power to its presence. If, then, you are a partaker of true religion, be you who, where, or what you may, you cannot be at ease in Zion, for there will be ever something working up out of your own heart or arising from some other quarter to make you uneasy.

 

Job was once at ease, but he was not allowed to die in his soft nest. He therefore says, "I was at ease, but he has broken me asunder—he has also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark." And yet with all this unexpected and apparently cruel treatment, he could still say, "Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high." And though so exercised and distressed that he had to cry out, "I have been reduced to skin and bones and have escaped death by the skin of my teeth. Have mercy on me, my friends, have mercy, for the hand of God has struck me." Yet he could add, in all the confidence of faith, as desirous that his words might stand forever upon record—"Oh, that my words could be written. Oh, that they could be inscribed on a monument, carved with an iron chisel and filled with lead, engraved forever in the rock. But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!" Job 19:23-27

Psalm 56:13

"You have delivered my soul from death." — Ps 56:13

 

You may have been delivered from death, as much as David was, but not so fully in the assurance of the deliverance. God may have quickened your soul into life divine; he may have communicated his grace to your heart, and yet you have many doubts and fears whether it be a real work of grace upon your soul. It is not every child of God who has been delivered from death by regenerating grace, who can use the words with the confidence expressed here—"You have delivered my soul from death." But I will show you when he can. When God is pleased to bless him with a sense of his pardoning love; when Jesus is revealed to his heart, and manifested with power to his soul; when the blood of sprinkling is applied to purge his conscience from guilt, filth, and dead works, to serve the living God; when the Spirit of adoption is given, and he is enabled to cry, "Abba, Father;" when he can "read his title clear to mansions in the skies" by the witness of the Holy Spirit in his breast that he is a child of God; when he feels the presence of God, and a sweet flowing forth of love and affection to his heavenly Father—at such favored seasons as these, he can say in the sweet confidence of faith, "You have delivered my soul from death."

Psalm 57:2

"I will cry unto God most High; unto God who performs all things for me." Ps 57:2

 

In the word "most High," there is something to my mind very expressive. It is to "God most High" that prayers go up from broken hearts, in all parts of the world where the Lord has a quickened people. "Unto God most High" every eye is pointed, every heart is fixed, and every breath of living prayer flows. Jesus sits in glory as "God most High," hearing the sighs and cries of his broken-hearted family, where they dwell in the utmost corners of the earth; and he is not only sitting on high to hear their cries, but also to bestow upon them the blessings which he sees suitable to their case and state.

 

Now when shall we thus come "unto God most High?" When we are pleased and satisfied in SELF? when the world smiles? when all things are easy without and within? when we are in circumstances for which our own wisdom, strength, and righteousness are amply sufficient? We may, under such circumstances, appease our conscience by prayer, or rather its form; but there is no "CRY unto God most High." Before there is a real, spiritual cry raised up, we must be brought to that spot, "Refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul" (Psalm 142:4). Here all the saints of old were brought; Job upon his ash-heap, Hezekiah upon his sick bed, Hannah by the temple gate. All were hopeless, helpless, houseless, refugeless, before they cried "unto God most High." And we must be equally refugeless and houseless before we can utter the same cry, or our prayers find entrance into the ears of the Lord Almighty.

 

"Unto God who performs all things for me." If God did not perform something for us; no more, if God did not perform all things for us, it would be a mockery, a delusion to pray to him at all. "The Hope of Israel" would then be to us a dumb idol, like Ashtaroth or Baal, who could not hear the cries of his lancet-cutting worshipers, because he was hunting or asleep, and needed to be awakened. But the God of Israel is not like these dumb idols, these ash-heap gods, the work of men's hands, the figments of superstition and ignorance; but the eternal Jehovah, who ever lives to hear and answer the prayers that his people offer up.

Psalm 57:3

"He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth." Ps 57:3

 

And where is God's mercy revealed? Outwardly in the word of God; inwardly in the heart. And it is by sending his mercy into the conscience, shedding abroad his love in the soul, manifesting his pardoning favor within, that God "saves from the reproach of him that would swallow us up." Man may say, 'I do not doubt your religion; surely you have marks and testimonies of being a child of God!' Ministers may come and endeavor to soothe you, and often by their soothing make more mischief than they mend—'O, no doubt, if you are exercised with these things you are a child of God;' as though a man could be satisfied with exercises, and because he is hungering and thirsting after the Lord, could be contented with his famine and his drought. No; these things do not touch the secret malady, do not go far enough, nor deep enough, nor come with divine power as from the mouth of the Lord himself. All short of this leaves the poor patient afflicted, desolate, and dejected; and does not remove that under which his soul labors.

 

But mercy, sweet mercy, sent from heaven, and dropped from above into his spirit, applied to his conscience, revealed to his heart, and brought warm into his very soul by the Spirit of God—that saves him from the reproach of every enemy that would swallow him up. For if he can lean, confidently lean upon the arms of mercy, what can man do, what can Satan do, what can sin do, what can death do, what can hell itself do to hurt him? If the mercy of God is upon his side, revealed to his heart, and sent from heaven into his soul, who or what shall swallow him up?

Psalm 61:2

"From the end of the earth will I cry unto you. When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Ps 61:2

 

There is something in this expression in our text, "rock," which seems, to my mind, to throw a sweet and blessed light upon what Jesus is to the poor and needy. The rock must go down to the bottom of the deep waters, as well as rise out of them, to be a sufficient place of refuge for the shipwrecked mariner! If the rock did not go to the bottom of the deep, it would not be firm; it would be but a quicksand. Is not this agreeable to the Spirit's testimony concerning the humanity of Christ? How deep that went into all our sorrows, into all our sufferings, into all our sins, into all our shame! However deep the waters may be, the rock is deeper than all; however deep the sufferings, sins, and sorrows of the Church may be, the sufferings and sorrows of "Immanuel, God with us," were infinitely deeper. But the waves and billows beat in vain against the rock; they cannot move it from its place. So it is with the rock, Jesus. All the sins, temptations, sufferings, and sorrows of the elect, with the wrath of God, and the fury of hell, beat against that rock, but they never moved it from its place.

 

But this rock is spoken of in our text as "higher than I." There we have the Godhead. For if Jesus were not God as well as man, the God-man, what support could he be to the sinking soul? what efficacy could there be in his atoning blood? what power and glory in his justifying righteousness? what suitability in him as a Savior to the utterly lost? But being God as well as man, yes, the God-man, the great and glorious Immanuel, he could descend in his human nature into the very depths of the fall, and rise up in his divine nature to the throne of the most High; and thus, like Jacob's ladder, the bottom of it was upon the earth, but the top exalted to the clouds. Then will not, must not, this be ever, as the Lord is pleased to raise it up, the cry of our soul, "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I?" No salvation anywhere else; no peace anywhere else; no consolation anywhere else. Buffeted by the waves, and well-near drowned by the billows, away from that rock; but if led there, brought there, kept there by the blessed Spirit, finding it a safe and sure standing for eternity. And what else but such a rock can save our souls, or what else but such a Savior and such a salvation, without money and without price, can suit such ruined wretches?

Psalm 62:5

"My soul, wait only upon God; for my expectation is from him." — Ps 62:5

 

I believe that the Lord, before ever he communicates a real blessing to the souls of his poor and needy children, not merely convinces them by the Spirit of the depth of their poverty, of their truly ruined and lost state by nature, of the destitution of everything good in them; but he opens their eyes in a mysterious manner to see certain blessings which are stored up in Christ. For instance, righteousness to cover their nakedness, blood to atone for their transgressions, grace to superabound over all the aboundings of sin, faith to be the evidence of things not seen, hope to anchor within the veil, and love to be a foretaste of eternal bliss.

 

These and similar blessings the Lord presents before their eyes, and gives them a spiritual understanding that these mercies are stored up in Christ; and as he gives them this perception of what the blessing is, and shows them that these blessings are not in the creature, but in Christ, he draws forth the desires and sighs and ardent affections of their souls after these blessings, so that nothing but these special mercies can really satisfy them, ease their minds, assuage their troubles, bind up their wounds, and pour oil and wine into their conscience.

 

And thus he brings them to be suppliants, he lays them at his feet as beggars. Yet, base though they feel themselves to be, black though they know they are, there is that mysterious attraction of the Spirit, as well as that mysterious fitting together of their poverty and Christ's righteousness, their nakedness and Christ's justifying robe, their helplessness and his almighty strength; that they never can be satisfied, unless an experienced and enjoyed union of the two takes place in their conscience.

Psalm 62:8

"O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge." Ps 62:8

 

Have we not sometimes been enabled to pour out our hearts at a throne of grace, and tell the Lord what we really needed, what we really asked for, and tell him that nothing but that which he alone could give would satisfy our souls? There have been such times of access to the God of grace. And afterwards perhaps we have forgotten the things we told him of; we have been heedless of the prayers we laid at his feet; and though very earnest at the time in seeking after certain blessings, we left them at the Lord's feet and forgot them all.

 

But the Lord does not forget them; they are treasured up in his heart and memory; and in his own time he brings them to light, and gives the fulfillment of them. But before he does it, he will bring us into the spot where we need them again; and then we have to tell him, and supplicate and ask him again, ashamed of ourselves perhaps that we should have asked the Lord for these blessings and been as heedless of them as though we did not care to receive them at his hand; but still, under trouble, under soul necessity, under grief, we go and tell him again. And then the Lord, in his own time and way, brings about the very things we desired of him; opens up ways, lifts out of trials, removes burdens, makes a way in the deep, which no eye but his could see, and no hand but his could open—leads the soul into it, brings the soul through it—and then hides all glory from the creature, by making us fall down before his feet, and ascribe glory and honor and power and thanksgiving and salvation unto God and the Lamb.

Psalm 63:1

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." Ps 63:1

 

David here speaks of seeking God for what he is in himself as distinct from what he has to give. His gifts are one thing, himself is another. Therefore he says, O God, you are my God; early will I seek you;" you as distinct from your gifts. The bride may value her bridegroom's costly gifts; but what are his gifts apart from himself? So the Church highly prizes her royal Husband's gifts and blessings; but what are these compared to Him who, in her admiring eyes, is the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely? Thus, as seen by the eye of faith, there is that in his most blessed Majesty which alone can satisfy the soul taught by his Spirit and influenced by his grace.

 

The soul was made for him; it was gifted with immortality by him. Powers and faculties were given to it that might be expanded into an infinite capacity to know and to enjoy him. So that being created for God, nothing but God can really satisfy its cravings and desires. But there is that in him, as revealed to a believing heart, which can satisfy. His favor is life; his presence heaven begun; his love a foretaste of eternal bliss. Thus in seeking the blessings he has to bestow, we do not seek them independent of the Giver. We love the gift, but we prize the Giver more. Without the Giver, the gift would be worthless. The bridal ring is the pledge of union. But what would be the ring without the bridegroom? Mockery. So all the favors and blessings which the Lord has to bestow, if he gave all and withheld himself, would be but to mock us. But in giving them, he gives himself.

 

As when the bridegroom puts the ring on the finger of his betrothed he gives himself with the gift; so when the Lord seals a sense of his espousal upon the heart of his beloved one, in giving his love he gives himself. Nor can anything else satisfy the desires of an awakened soul. "It is Jesus," it says, "that I want; without him, heaven itself would be hell; without him, life would not be life, nor glory be glory, nor immortality be immortality!"

 

As without the sun, the earth could not exist; so the Church could not exist without Jesus. And as in the absence of the sun, no candles could take the place of heaven's own glorious light; so no sparks, however bright, of fires kindled by human hands, could make up to the Church for the absence of the Sun of righteousness. He must be, as he is, our all; having him, we have everything; not having him, we have nothing. The Lord the Spirit write that truth deeply upon your heart that you may take it wherever you go, and make it ever your bosom companion. If you have Jesus, you have everything; if you have not him, you have nothing. This continual feeling of happiness in and with him, and of misery out of and without him, as maintained in your breast by the power of the blessed Spirit, will be leading you to seek him perpetually. This made David say, "Early will I seek you."

Psalm 63:2

"To see your power and your glory, so as I have seen you in the sanctuary." Ps 63:2

 

Every place is "a sanctuary" where God manifests himself in power and glory to the soul. Moses, doubtless, had often passed by the bush which grew in Horeb; it was but a common hawthorn bush, in no way distinguished from the other bushes of the grove; but on one solemn occasion it was all "in a flame of fire," for "the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire" out of the midst; and though it burnt with fire, it was not consumed. God being in the bush, the ground round about was holy, and Moses was bidden to take his shoes from off his feet. Was not this a sanctuary to Moses? It was, for a holy God was there.

 

Thus wherever God manifests himself, that becomes a sanctuary to a believing soul. We do not need places made holy by the ceremonies of man, but places made holy by the presence of God. Then a stable, a hovel, a hedge, any homely corner may be, and is a sanctuary, when God fills your heart with his sacred presence, and causes every holy feeling and gracious affection to spring up in your soul. If ever you have seen this in times past, you have seen God in the sanctuary; for then your heart becomes the sanctuary of God, according to his own words, "You are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them and walk in them." Are not your very bodies the temples of the Holy Spirit? (1Co 6:19.) Does not Christ dwell in the heart by faith? And is he not formed there, the hope of glory? It is, then, not only in Christ without, but in Christ within that we see the power and glory of God. It is in this way that we become consecrated to the service and glory of God, set our affections upon heavenly things, and obtain a foretaste of eternal joy.

Psalm 63:8

"My soul follows hard after you." Ps 63:8

 

The Lord (we speak with reverence) does not allow himself at first to be overtaken. The more the soul follows after him, the more he seems to withdraw himself, and thus he draws it more earnestly on the pursuit. He means to be overtaken in the end—it is his own blessed work in the conscience to kindle earnest desires and longings after himself; and therefore he puts strength into the soul, and "makes the feet like hinds' feet" to run and continue the chase. But in order to whet the ardent desire, to kindle to greater intensity the rising eagerness, the Lord will not allow himself to be overtaken until after a long and arduous pursuit.

 

This is sweetly set forth in the Song of Solomon, Song 5:2-8. We find there the Lord coming to his bride; but she is unwilling to open to him until "he puts his hand in by the hole of the door." She would not rise at his first knocking, and therefore he is obliged to touch her heart. But "when she opened to her Beloved, he was gone;" and no sooner does he withdraw himself, than she pursues after him; but she cannot find him; he hides himself from her view, draws her round and round the walls of the city, until at length she overtakes, and finds Him whom her soul loves. This sweetly sets forth how the Lord draws on the longing soul after himself.

 

Could we immediately obtain the object of our pursuit, we would not half so much enjoy it when attained. Could we with 'a wish' bring the Lord down into the soul, it would be but the lazy wish of the sluggard, who "desires, and has not." But when the Lord can only be obtained by an arduous pursuit, every faculty of the soul is engaged in panting after his manifested presence; and this was the experience of the Psalmist, when he cried, "My soul follows hard after you."

Psalm 65:1

"What mighty praise, O God, belongs to you in Zion. We will fulfill our vows to you." Ps 65:1

 

What a sweet thing it is to bless and praise God! There is no feeling upon earth equal to it. But how often are we in that state when we can neither pray nor praise, when sullenness, frowardness, and peevishness seem to take such complete possession, that, so far from praising God, there is no power even to seek his face; and so far from blessing him, there are even dreadful things working up in the heart against him, which awfully manifest the enmity of the carnal mind. Those who are painfully exercised with such feelings are certain, therefore, that it is God's work to enable them to praise and bless his holy name.

 

And does not the heaven-taught soul come sometimes into this spot, "O that the Lord would give me something to praise him for, would bring me out of this trial, break this wretched snare, remove this dreadful temptation, lift me out of this providential difficulty, bless and water my soul, comfort my heart, strengthen my spirit, give me some sweet testimony of his covenant love!" "O," says the soul, "how I would then bless and praise him! I would spend all my breath in exalting his holy name."

 

But when the Lord withholds from the soul the blessings it so eagerly covets, it can only look at them at a great distance, view them wishfully, and long to experience them. But it says, "Until they come with power, until they are brought in with sweetness, until they are sealed upon my very heart, so as to take full possession of my breast, I cannot, I dare not, bless and praise God's holy name."

 

O what a dependent creature a heaven-taught soul is! How it hangs upon the Spirit of God to work in it that which is well-pleasing in his sight; how convinced it is that it cannot feel sin nor confess it, that it cannot breathe forth prayer nor praise unless the "God of all grace" create by his own powerful hand these blessed fruits of the lips (Isa 57:19). Are you so helpless in your feelings as this? Are you such complete dependents upon sovereign grace? Then you are spiritually taught of God; for it is God's teaching in the soul which brings a man to an experimental knowledge of his own complete helplessness before him.

Psalm 66:9

"Who holds our soul in life." Ps 66:9

 

"Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling." Ps 66:9

 

It is indeed an unspeakable mercy for the heirs of promise that the life given them in Christ and communicated by the Holy Spirit to their souls cannot be extinguished. It may sink very low—one can hardly say how low, but so low as to sink out of sight and almost out of feeling; and yet if it has once been breathed into the soul from the mouth of God, it can never die.

 

Still it is most desirable that this divine life should be maintained in strength and vigor, and not sink so low as to be scarcely perceptible either to ourselves or others, for if so, we have little comfort of it in our own breast, and are of little use or service to the people of God. It is a sad thing to be satisfied with a low, lean, and lifeless state of soul, or be placing our religion in external activity and zealous attention to forms and mere externals, just to preserve a clean outside, when within there is little else but darkness, bondage, and death. How the Lord seems, as it were, obliged to plunge us into trials and afflictions to bring us out of carnality and death, and to keep us from settling on our lees like Moab!

Psalm 66:10

"For you, O God, have proved us; you have tried us, as silver is tried." Ps 66:10

 

The Lord's dealings with his people in the wilderness are very much to this purpose and to this end—to prove them, and to know what is in their hearts. Has the Lord implanted life in your soul? Has he touched your conscience with his finger? Has he begun a work of grace upon your heart? If so, in your travels through this wilderness there will be things from time to time to prove the reality of this work upon your soul.

 

You will have temptations; now, when temptation comes, it will prove whether you have the fear of God in your soul to stand against the temptation, or whether you fall under the temptation; or, if you fall under the temptation, whether you are ever recovered out of it. And if you are a living soul, the Lord will keep bringing circumstance upon circumstance, event upon event, one thing after another; and all these things, as they come upon you, shall be made to prove whether the fear of God be in your soul or not. Now, if the fear of God be not in a man's heart, he must decline, he must fall away. SATAN will be more than a match for every one except God's own family; SIN will overcome and destroy every one but those whose sins are pardoned through atoning blood and dying love; and the WORLD, sooner or later, will overcome everyone who has not the faith of God's elect whereby alone the world is overcome. Thus the Lord, in his mysterious dealings (and how mysterious his dealings are!) proves the reality of the work of grace in every heart where that work is begun, and proves the hypocrisy of all who have but a name to live while their soul is dead before God.

Psalm 68:18

"You have ascended on high, you have led captivity captive; you have received gifts for men; yes, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." Ps 68:18

 

What a painful thing it is to be rebellious! There is hardly any feeling worse than rebellion to a man whose conscience is made tender in God's fear. To have rebellion against a holy and wise God; rebellion against his dealings with us in providence; against his teachings in grace; because we have not more of the light of his countenance; because we have not more and clearer testimonies and manifestations! We know in our judgment that God cannot err in any of his dealings, and yet to find at times such dreadful rebellion against God, O how painful it is! The least trifle can work up rebellion. It does not need a storm or a gale to lift up its proud waves. The slightest breath, the faintest breeze that blows, will at times stir up the billows of the rebellious heart, and make it swell with tumultuous heavings.

 

But what a mercy it is to the poor souls that groan and grieve under a rebellious heart, that this ascended Mediator has received gifts for them! It is not your patience, meekness, and good temper, nor your gentle and quiet disposition, that bring down grace into your hearts; but God the Father has lodged all the graces and gifts of the Spirit in his dear Son, and they are given to you because you have a saving interest in his blood and righteousness.

 

The Lord teaches us this. If we were always patient, meek, holy, submissive, never harassed by the devil, and never felt the workings of corruption, we would begin to think we had some power to please God in ourselves, and would slight and neglect a precious Savior. But when taught by painful experience what a depraved nature and rebellious heart we carry in our bosom, when the Lord lets down a little mercy and grace into our soul, we then know the blessed quarter whence it comes, and learn to abhor ourselves and bless his holy name.

Psalm 81:10

"Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." — Ps 81:10

 

When the Lord favors your soul with sweet access at a throne of grace, make the most of it. What would we think of the master of a vessel coming up the river, if, when the wind was favorable and the tide served, he would not heave her anchor, or hoisted but her fore-sail to the breeze, and would not take full advantage of wind and tide? Now it is so sometimes with our souls; a gale blows, a gale of grace on the soul, and the tide of faith rises. Is it not our wisdom, and is it not our mercy, at such a rare season, to make the most of it? If the Lord condescends to give us an ear, is it not our mercy to tell him all that our souls desire?

 

Do you recollect what the prophet said to the king who only struck his arrows three times on the ground, and then stopped? "But the man of God was angry with him. 'You should have struck the ground five or six times!' he exclaimed. 'Then you would have beaten Aram until they were entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times." (2Ki 13:19). Sometimes it is so with us. When the Lord gives us some little access unto himself, we do not make the most of it. Satan casts in some fiery dart, some worldly circumstance distracts our mind, some filthy imagination rises up in our bosom; and instead of resisting the devil that he may flee from us, we give way to him; the opportunity is gone, the sweet moment is lost, and it may be months before we get the ear of the King again. It will, therefore, be your wisdom and your mercy, when the gale blows, and the tide rises, to spread every sail, and to get as far as you can on your course to the haven of eternal rest and joy.

Psalm 84:5

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in you; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also fills the pools." Ps 84:5-6

 

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

As they pass through the Valley of Baca,

they make it a place of springs;

the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

They go from strength to strength,

until each appears before God in Zion." Ps 84:5-7

 

David casts a glimpse here at those pilgrims who were taking their upward journey to worship God in Zion. He marks their road, and takes occasion to spiritualize it; for he says, "In whose heart," in whose experience, in whose soul, "are the ways" of these pilgrims Zionward.

 

What are these "ways?" It is this, that "passing through the valley of Baca, they make it a well." This valley of Baca appears to have been a very perilous pass, through which pilgrims journeyed toward Jerusalem; and on account of the difficulties, dangers, and sufferings that they met with, it was named "the valley of Baca," or "the valley of weeping," "the valley of tears."

 

But the Psalmist says, "Blessed is the man in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well." Here is the distinctive character of the true pilgrim. Not that he is journeying merely through the "valley of Baca;" not that his eyes are drowned in tears; not that his heart is filled with sorrows; not that his soul is cut with temptations; not that his mind is tried by suffering. But this is his distinctive feature—he "makes it a well." This the ungodly know nothing of; this the professing world, for the most part, are entirely unacquainted with; but this is the secret which "no fowl knows, and which the vulture's eye has not seen."

 

One feature of the "valley of Baca" was, that the burning sun above, and the parched ground beneath, at the time of year when the pilgrims traveled, made the whole valley arid and dry. But "they made it a well." There were wells dug in this valley of Baca for the pilgrims to slake their thirst at. And David, looking at these wells dug for the pilgrims, applies them spiritually to the refreshment that the Lord's people meet with in their course Zionward. "Make it a well;" that is, there are from time to time sweet refreshments in this valley of tears; there are bubblings up of divine consolation; there are fountains of living waters, streams of heavenly pleasures.

 

I remember a friend of mine telling me, that once while journeying through one of the deserts in Asia, he and his companions came to a well; and their disappointment when they found the well was dry he said no language could depict; their grief and trouble when, after hours of traveling, they came at night to encamp by the well, and found that the sun had dried it up, were indeed most acute. As, therefore, none but pilgrims through the dry and parched valley could adequately feel the sweetness of the natural well; so none but spiritual pilgrims, afflicted, exercised, and harassed, can appreciate the sweetness of the "pure water of life" with which the Lord at times refreshes the soul.

Psalm 84:7

"They go from strength to strength, until each appears before God in Zion." Ps 84:7

 

"They go from strength to strength." It is in the margin, "from company to company." I rather think, that the meaning implied is, "they go from resting place to resting place." There were certain fixed spots where the whole company rested at night; as we read, when the infant Jesus tarried at Jerusalem, his parents knew it not—they supposed that he was "in the company;" that is, had gone on with the traveling pilgrims; but when night came, and they looked for him, he was not there.

 

These resting places were certain spots where the caravan of the traveling pilgrims rested at night; by these successive restings their strength was recruited, and they were enabled to bear the long journey, rising in the morning refreshed with their night's rest.

 

The Psalmist viewing it spiritually says, "They go from strength to strength." At each resting place they received fresh strength to pursue their journey onward. And is not this true in grace? There are resting places in the divine life, spots of refreshment, where the true pilgrims renew their strength. For instance, every manifestation of the Lord is a communication of divine strength, a recruiting place, where the soul renews its strength to travel onward. Every promise that comes with sweet power is another resting place where the traveler may rest. Every discovery of saving interest in Christ; every glimpse of the grace and glory of Jesus; every word from the Lord's lips; every smile from the Lord's face; every token for good; everything that encourages, supports, blesses, and comforts the soul, enabling it to go onwards towards its heavenly home, is a resting place, where the pilgrim rests, and where he recruits his weary limbs.

 

And where can we rest, except where God rests? But does not God "rest in his love?" And can we rest anywhere short of God's love shed abroad in our heart? Does not God rest in his dear Son? Did not this voice come from the excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?" All the satisfaction of God centers in Jesus; all the delight of the Father rests in the Son of his love. "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights!" Can we then rest anywhere but where God rests? Is it not spiritually with us as with the Israelites of old? When the cloud tarried, they tarried; when the cloud went, they went; when the cloud moved onward, they followed it; and when the cloud stopped, they halted, and rested beneath its shadow.

 

"They go from strength to strength, until each appears before God in Zion." Ps 84:7

 

As the Lord is true, no spiritual pilgrim will ever fall and die in the valley of Baca. Some may fear that through temptation their strong passions or boiling lusts will one day break out and destroy them. No, not if they are pilgrims. "Every one of them in Zion appears before God." Others may think they never shall have a testimony; they never shall read their name clearly in the Book of Life; the Lord will never appear in their heart or bless their soul; they never shall be able to say, "Abba, Father." If Jesus is theirs, they shall.

 

But are they spiritual pilgrims? Do they find it a valley of tears? Are their faces Zionward? Have they come out of the world? Do they sometimes make the valley of Baca a well? And does the rain fill the pools? And have they ever had strength made perfect in weakness? Then every one of them will appear before God in Zion. Blessed end! Sweet accomplishment of the pilgrim's hopes, desires, and expectations! The crowning blessing of all that God has to bestow! "Every one of them appears before God," washed in the Savior's blood, clothed in the Redeemer's righteousness, adorned with all the graces of the Spirit, and made fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.

 

No weeping then! The valley of Baca is passed, and tears wiped from off all faces. No thorns to lacerate the weary feet there; no prowling wild beasts to seize the unwary traveler there; no roving bandits to surprise stragglers there; no doubts and fears and cutting sorrows to grieve, perplex, and burden them there. Safe in Zion, safe in the Redeemer's bosom, safe in their Husband's arms, safe before the throne, every one of them appears before God in glory!

Psalm 84:11

"The Lord will give grace and glory." Ps 84:11

 

Wherever the Lord gives grace, he in and with that grace gives glory. We, therefore, read, "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Thus he has already made them, even while on earth, partakers of his glory; and this by making them partakers of his grace; for as in the bud is the bloom, and in the bloom the fruit, so in budding grace is blooming glory—grace being but glory begun, and glory being but grace finished.

 

But what is "glory?" Viewed as future, in its full consummation, it is to be with Jesus in realms of eternal bliss, where tears are wiped from off all faces; it is to see him as he is; to be conformed to his glorious likeness; to be delivered from all sin and sorrow; to be perfectly free from all temptations, trials, burdens, and exercises, and to dwell forever in that happy land, "the inhabitants of which shall not say, I am sick;" where a weary body, a burdened conscience, a troubled heart, a faint and weary mind, are utterly and forever unknown.

 

In a word, it is to have a glorified body re-united to a glorified soul, and for both to be as full of happiness and holiness, bliss and blessedness, as an immortal spirit can hold, and an immortal frame can endure, drinking in to the full, with unutterable satisfaction but without satiety, the pleasures that are at God's right hand for evermore.

 

But no human heart can conceive, nor human tongue unfold in what the nature and fullness of this glory consist; for "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him." Yet all this glory will the Lord give to those upon whom he has already bestowed his grace. He gives them grace now, to bring them through this wilderness world, this valley of tears, this scene of temptation, sin, and sorrow; and when he lands them on that happy shore, he gives them there the fullness of his glory. Then will be fully accomplished the Redeemer's prayer and will—"Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world" (Joh 17:24).

 

Their right and title to the enjoyment of this predestinated inheritance are securely lodged in the hands of their covenant Head; and he living at God's right hand to save them to the uttermost, all their temptations, enemies, sins, and sorrows can never hinder them from reaching the shore on which God has decreed they shall safely land. Satan may spread a thousand snares to entangle their feet; not a day or scarcely an hour may pass that they are not burdened with indwelling sin; a myriad of lusts may start up in arms from the depths of their carnal mind; and many a pang of guilt and chill of despair may seem at times wholly to cut them off from eternal life. But yet, where the Lord has given grace he will give glory; for when he gives grace with the left hand, he gives glory with the right; yes, we may say that with both hands he gives at once both grace and glory; for as grace and glory flow out of the same loving heart, and are given by the same loving God, they may be said to be given by both hands at one and the same time. A portion or foretaste of this glory is given on earth in every discovery of the glory of Christ; as the Lord speaks, "And the glory which you gave me I have given them"—already given them; and this he did when "he manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him" (Joh 17:22; 2:11).

 

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield." Ps 84:11

 

Is not the sun made to shine? It is his nature to do so. So it is with the SUN of righteousness; he is made to shine. And does the natural sun lose any of his light by shining? Why, the more he shines, the more light he seems to have. For ages he has shone as brightly as now. His beams were as glorious before we had birth or being, and will be as glorious when the eyes which now see him are mouldering in the dust. Thousands of harvests has he ripened, millions and thousands of millions has he fed; but he shows no sign of exhaustion or decay.

 

And does Jesus lose anything by communicating his light, life, love, and grace? He is all the more glorified thereby; and the more you look to him as the Sun, that as such he might shine into and upon your soul, the more you glorify him as the Sun of righteousness. When in the morning we throw the shutters back, or draw up the blinds, it is to receive the sun into the dark room. So the more we are enabled by divine grace to throw back the shutters of doubt and fear, and draw up the blinds of unbelief which hang down over the mind, the more we glorify the Lord Jesus by receiving out of his fullness, and grace for grace.

 

Oh! it is good to be sometimes enabled to look beyond and above doubts, fears, misgivings, and the many things that try the mind. You may pore over your sins and miseries until you fall well-near into despair; you may look back upon your wanderings, inconsistencies, and lack of fruitfulness, until you are almost ready to sink down without hope and die. To do this is to resemble a person wandering in a dark room, tumbling over the furniture, and at last sitting down and saying, "There is no light." If he can but throw back the shutters, the sun will shine into the room.

 

So we sometimes may sit pondering over our many inconsistencies until we say, "There is no light in my soul; there never was, and there never will be." O to be enabled (when I speak thus, I know well, from soul experience, that it is only God who can do it in us and for us) to throw back the shutters, and look away from those things that so weigh down the mind! Look up, O sinking soul, and see the blessed Sun still shining in the skies of heaven! Why, the very power to do this, the very act of doing so, brings with it a felt blessedness.

 

How good, also, to be enabled to make use of Christ as a SHIELD! Oh, how often we go to battle without this shield upon our arm! But depend upon it, the Lord would not have provided such a shield for you unless he knew that your enemies were too many for you. Doubt, fear, darkness, despair, the law, the accusations of a guilty conscience, the fiery darts of the devil—how can you fight against these enemies without a shield? Why, you would be like a soldier going out against the foe without either sword or musket, and laying his bosom bare to every weapon, without sword or bayonet in his hand to defend himself.

 

So, to go into combat against the law; the accusations of a guilty conscience, and a desponding heart, and have no blessed Jesus to hold up as a shield against these deadly foes, would be enough to sink a man into despair. But if he is enabled to make use of the shield that God has provided, and to hold Christ up against a condemning law, a guilty conscience, an accusing devil, and a desponding mind, and say to them all, "Christ has died, and died for me," then he receives into the shield those darts which would otherwise sink into his soul, and then they all fall harmless, because they all fell on the Lord Jesus.

 

"No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly." Ps 84:11

 

There are those who walk uprightly, very uprightly, in the fear of God, and yet have little comfortable or abiding evidence that they are at present partakers of God's grace, or will be hereafter sharers of Christ's glory. But this one evidence they certainly do possess, though they can take no present comfort from it, that they walk uprightly before God and man. Let no one, however deeply experienced or highly favored, despise this evidence of grace in others; and you who walk uprightly from a living principle of godly fear have here a marked testimony from the Lord himself that he has a special regard for you.

 

But what is it to "walk uprightly?" Oh! here is the grand difficulty in religion. We may talk; we may preach; we may hear; we may seem to believe; but it is when we come to act, to walk, and carry out into daily and hourly practice what we profess, that the main difficulty is felt and found. "The soul of religion," says Bunyan, "is the practical part;" and it is when we come to this "practical part" that the daily, hourly cross commences. The walk, the conversation, the daily, hourly conduct is, after all, the main difficulty, as it is the all-important fruit of a Christian profession. To walk day after day, under all circumstances, and amid all the varied temptations that beset us, uprightly, tenderly, and sincerely in the fear of God; to feel continually that heart, lip, and life are all open before his all-penetrating eye; to do the things which he approves, and to flee from the things which he abhors—oh! this in religion is the steep hill which it is such a struggle to climb! We can talk fast enough; but oh! to walk in the straight and narrow path; to be a Christian outwardly as well as inwardly, before God and man, before the Church and the world; and in all points to speak and act with undeviating consistency with our profession—this is what nature never has done, and what nature never can do. In thus acting, as much as in believing, do we need God's power and grace to work in, and be made manifest in us.

Psalm 84:12

"O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in you." Ps 84:12

 

Trust in God implies total self-renunciation. The moment that I trust in myself, I cease to trust in God. The moment I take any portion of my confidence away from the Lord and put a grain of it in myself, that moment I take away all my trust in God. My trust in God must be all or nothing. It must be unreserved and complete, or else it is false and delusive. Is not the Lord worthy to be trusted? And if he is worthy to be trusted at all, is he not worthy to be trusted with all? What real confidence could a man have in the wife of his bosom if he could trust her with one key, but not with all? Is that full confidence? So, if we can trust God for one thing and not for all, it shows that we have no real trust in him. A man has no real trust in his wife who cannot give her all the keys.

 

A man has no real trust in God who cannot give him all his heart, and put everything into his hand; family, property, body, and soul. The province and work of true faith is to put everything into the hands of God, keeping back no part of the price. It is this secret reserve that God hates; there is hypocrisy on the very face of it. Trust in God for nothing; or trust in him for all. God will not take a divided heart. Give him all, or none. And is he not worthy of it? Has he ever disappointed you whenever you have really put your trust in him? Does he not say, "Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto you?" (Jer 2:31.)

 

But David saw how few there were that with all their hearts did trust in God. This feeling seems to have made him say, "Blessed is the man," that peculiar man, that rare individual, "that trusts in you!" The blessing of God rests upon that happy, that highly-favored man. He is blessed for time and for eternity. He has the blessing of God even now in his soul. Oh! how rare it is for us to be in that sweet, blessed frame when we can put our trust wholly in God; trust him for life and death; trust him for all things, past, present, and to come. Yet without a measure of this faith, there is no solid peace, no real and abiding rest. And to this you must sooner or later come; for you cannot carry your own burdens without their breaking your back. But when you can cast your burden on the Lord, then you will surely find sweet relief.

 

May we not, then, join heart and voice with David, "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in you"? Such a one will never be disappointed. The Lord will hear his prayer; the Lord will bless his soul; will be with him in life, support him in death, and take him to be with him in eternity.

Psalm 86:1

"Bow down your ear, O Lord, hear me—for I am poor and needy." Ps 86:1

 

Whatever deliverance a man may have experienced, let him have been delivered from the lowest hell, and have had his feet placed upon a rock, yet all his life long he will have this experience wrought in him by the Holy Spirit—to be "poor and needy." And only so far as he is poor and needy, will he want to know anything experimentally of the riches of Jesus Christ, or to taste the consolations which the Spirit of God alone can communicate to the parched and thirsty soul. How many we find in our day, who are "rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing," and yet they are always speaking and boasting of the riches of Christ. But what can they know of Christ's riches? His riches are for "the poor and needy;" his blood is for the guilty; his righteousness is for the naked; his perfect work and finished salvation is for those who continually stand in need of his powerful arm to save them from the lowest hell. And, therefore, whatever notions men may have about Christ's riches, and Christ's blood and righteousness, and Christ's glorious salvation; there are none who prize it, who pant with unutterable longings after it, who really desire to live upon it as the very food of their heart, who are crying unto God continually for the sweet manifestations of it, who are restless and uneasy and dissatisfied without the sweet enjoyment of it—there are none who thus breathe and thus feel, except those who are spiritually "poor and needy," being stripped and emptied and despoiled of everything that the flesh can boast of, and everything that nature can exalt itself with.

Psalm 87:2

"The Lord loves the gates of Zion." Ps 87:2

 

What are gates for? Two purposes—entrance and exit. And Zion, also, has her gates of exit and entrance; she has her gates of access to God, entrance into the presence of the Most High; "the door of hope," opened in "the valley of Achor." And who has opened the door; or, rather, who has not only opened it and made it, but himself IS the Door? "I am the Door," says Jesus. And was not "the door" opened through his rent flesh? As the Apostle speaks—"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." Through his bleeding wounds, through his pierced side, through his mangled feet and hands, there is now access to God—

 

"A door of hope is opened wide
In Jesus' pierced hands and side."

 

Is there any other access to God, but through the slaughtered Lamb? "Through him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father." There is no other; for he is "the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by him." Is not this an open way? Does not the soul through this door "walk in and out and find pasture," and enter into the immediate presence of God? Do you, my friends, ever find access to God, a heart to pray, a sense of acceptance in prayer, an open door, and power to enter therein? What opens it? Merit? Set up merit, and we are all damned to a man. It is not merit, great or little; it is the blood of the Lamb which alone has opened a way for poor lost sinners to draw near to God.

Psalm 88:10

"Will you show wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise you? Shall your loving-kindness be declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in destruction?" —Ps 88:10-11

 

This is not the language of a soul dead in trespasses and sins, but it is the breathing of a living soul struggling and grappling with death. What a difference there is, where there is life working in and under death, and where death reigns absolutely! between the quickened soul and that in which there is nothing but death—death without one spark of spiritual life, death without one ray of heavenly teaching. There is no groan, no sigh, no lamentation, no piteous inquiry, no pouring out of the heart before God, where the soul is utterly dead, any more than there is life and breath in a corpse in the tomb.

But wherever spiritual life is implanted in the soul from the Fountain of life, that life groans under death. It sighs from out of the grave; it gasps for breath, under the corpse which overlies it; and seeks to heave itself up from that dead weight, from that overlying mass of carnality which clasps it in its rigid and chilling embrace; it endeavors to uplift and extricate itself from that body of sin and death which spreads its cold and torpid mass all round it so that it is unable to arise.

Do you know the workings of spiritual life in this way? the heavings, the gaspings, the uprisings of the life of God in your soul, pressed, overlain, overwhelmed, and all but suffocated by that carnal, dead, barren, earthly, devilish nature, which lies as a weight upon you? Depend upon it—if you have never known what it is to gasp and pant and groan and sigh under the weight of a body of sin and death, you know nothing of the vital operations of the Holy Spirit in your conscience.

Philpot

Psalm 89:1

"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever." Ps 89:1

 

We are surrounded with mercies; mercies for the body, and mercies for the soul. There are indeed times and seasons when all the mercies of God, both in providence and grace, seem hidden from our eyes, when, what with the workings of sin, rebellion, and unbelief, with a thorny path in the world, and a rough, trying road in the soul, we see little of the mercies of God, though surrounded by them. Like Elisha's servant, though the mountain is surrounded by the horses and chariots of fire, and the angels of God are round about us, yet our eyes are blinded, we cannot see them; and at the very moment when God is already showering mercies upon us, and preparing others in reserve, through some trying dispensation, we are filled, perhaps, with murmuring and rebellion, and cry, "Is his mercy clean gone forever, will he be favorable no more?"

 

This is our infirmity, our weakness; but it no more arrests the shower of God's mercies than the parched field arrests the falling rain. The mercies of God, like himself, are infinite, and he showers them in rich profusion upon his Church and people. They come freely as the beams of the sun shining in the sky; as the breezes of the air we breathe; as the river that never ceases to flow. Everything testifies of the mercy of God to those whose eyes are anointed to see it, and are interested in it. To them all things in nature, in providence, and in grace, proclaim with one united harmonious voice, "The mercy of the Lord endures forever."

 

Now, as these mercies of God are sensibly felt in the soul, they soften, meeken, and subdue the spirit, melt it into the obedience of faith, and raise up in it the tenderness of love. By this we are prepared to enter into the beauty and blessedness of the precept as an integral part of the gospel. If I take a review of the mercies of God, and feel no saving interest in them; if they are not personally and individually mine, I slight, perhaps even rebel, against the precept as too hard and severe. The yoke is too heavy for my neck to bear. My Jewish mind, my stiff-necked disposition, shrinks from obedience to God's word.

 

But let my soul be favored with a sweet discovery of the mercies of God; let them reach my heart, soften and subdue my spirit, then there is no cross too heavy to be taken up, no trial too hard to be endured, no path of suffering and sorrow in which we cannot patiently, if not gladly, walk. The reason why the precepts are not obeyed is because the mercies of God are not felt. Love and obedience attend each other as the shadow waits upon the sun.

Psalm 89:33

"Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor allow my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my lips." Ps 89:33-34

 

We live in a changeable, ever-changing world. All outside of us is stamped with variation, death, and decay; and as regards ourselves, everything within us tells us how frail, weak, and mutable we are. Thus, as viewed by the eye of sense and reason, uncertainty and changeability are ever seen to be deeply stamped, not only on every event of time, but on all we are and have in body and soul; and this experience of what we feel in ourselves and see in all around us often greatly tries both our faith and hope, for we are apt to measure God by ourselves, and judge of our state before him, not according to his word, but according to the varying thoughts and exercises of our mind.

 

But when we can look by faith through all these mists and fogs which, as resting on the lower grounds of our soul, so often obscure our view of divine realities, to the fixed purposes of God as manifested in an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, and have at the same time some testimony of our interest therein, ground is thus afforded both for faith and hope as resting, not on our ever-changing feelings, but on the word and promise of him who cannot lie. It was thus David was comforted on his bed of languishing when the cold damps of death sat upon his brow (2Sa 23:5). It was then in this "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure," that even before the world was formed, or man created, or sin committed, a Savior was provided, a Redeemer set up, and the persons of the redeemed chosen in him and given to him. How can we think, then, that any changing and changeable events in time can alter and frustrate what was thus absolutely fixed by firm and sovereign decree, or that any mutable circumstances in ourselves or others can defeat and disannul the eternal purposes of God?

Psalm 90:8

"You have set our iniquities before you—our secret sins in the light of your countenance." — Ps 90:8

 

Thus Moses the man of God testified, and so Job found it—"For you write bitter things against me, and make me to possess the iniquities of my youth" (Job 13:26). But though the Lord sets his people's sins in the light of his countenance, and brings them to bear with weight and power upon their conscience, and thus for a time at least lets them sink and fall into distress and grief, he will support them under the heavy load, that they may not altogether be crushed by it.

 

I do think, that if there is one single grace more overlooked than another in the Church of God at the present day, it is the 'grace of repentance'. Though it lies at the very threshold of vital godliness, though it was one main element in the gospel that Paul preached, for he "testified both to the Jews and also to the Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ac 20:21), yet how it is passed by. Men speak of faith, hope, and love; but repentance, contrition, godly sorrow for sin, how much this part of God's work upon the soul is passed by. But the Lord will not pass it by. Books may pass it by; men may pass it by; ministers may pass it by; but the Lord will not pass it by. He will bring out these secret sins and set them in the light of his countenance; and when he lays them upon the sinner's conscience, he will make him feel what an evil and bitter thing it is to have sinned against the Lord.

Psalm 90:12

Ps 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Casting our eyes back upon the year now past and gone, are there no mercies which claim a note of thankful praise? It is sweet to see the Lord's kind hand in providence, but sweeter far to view his outstretched hand in grace. Are we then so unwatchful or so unmindful of the Lord's gracious hand in his various dealings with our soul as to view the whole past twelve months as a dead blank in which we have never seen his face, nor heard his voice, nor felt his power? "Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness?" (Jer 2:31,) the Lord tenderly asks. Has he been such to us also for twelve long and weary months?

 

What! No help by the way, no tokens for good, no liftings-up of the light of his countenance, no visitations of his presence and power, no breakings-in of his goodness for all that long and dreary time—for dreary it must indeed have been for a living soul to have been left and abandoned of the Lord so long! If not blessed with any peculiar manifestations of Christ, with any signal revelations of his Person and work, blood and love, grace and glory, for such special seasons are not of frequent, occurrence, have we not still found him the Way, the Truth, and the Life? If we have indeed a personal and spiritual union with the Son of God, as our living Head, there will be communications out of his fullness, a supplying of all our needs—a drawing forth of faith, hope, and love—a support under trials, a deliverance from temptations, a deepening of his fear in the heart, and that continued work of grace whereby we are enabled to live a life of faith on the Son of God.

Psalm 90:14

"O satisfy us early with your mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." — Ps 90:14

 

Many of the dear children of God are tossed up and down on a sea of great uncertainty, doubt and fear, because they have not had sensible manifestations of Christ to their soul. He has not come into them in the power of his love; still they often say, "When will you come unto me? O visit me with your salvation; speak a word to my soul; it is yourself, and yourself alone, I want to hear, to see, and to know!"

 

Now these are drawings of the gracious Lord, the secret beginnings of his coming, the heralds of his approach, the dawning of the day before the morning star arises and the sun follows upon his track. But when the Lord does come in any sweet manifestation of his presence or of his power, then he will abide where he has come, for he never leaves or forsakes a soul which he has once visited. He may seem to do so; he may withdraw himself; and then who can behold him? But he never really leaves the temple which he has once adorned and sanctified with his presence. Christ is formed in the hearts of his people the hope of glory; their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and Christ dwells in them by faith. Though we often mourn over his absence and do not feel his gracious presence as we would, still he is there, if he has once come.

Psalm 90:16

"Let your work appear unto your servants, and your glory unto their children." Ps 90:16

 

"Let your work appear unto your servants." Creature works we here read nothing of. They had been long ago cut to the very ground. And what had been their deathblow? What had driven the dagger into their very heart? "Days of affliction, and years of evil." These had been their destruction; creature righteousness they had stabbed to the very heart, and let out the life-blood of human merit. There is no petition, then, "Let our works appear!" No. These were buried in the grave of corruption; these were swallowed up and lost in "days of affliction, and years of evil." But, "Let your work," the finished work of the Son of God; the obedience of Jesus to the law; the atoning blood which he shed upon Calvary's tree; the work which he undertook, went through, and completed—"Oh," breathes forth the man of God in earnest cry (and our hearts if they have been taught by the same Spirit will unite in the same strain), "let your work appear unto your servants!"

 

What! can we not see that work in the word of God? is not that sufficient? Can we not hear that work set forth by good men? is not that sufficient? Can we not read it as opened up by the pen of ready writers? is not that sufficient? Yes; for those who have never seen "days of affliction, and years of evil," amply sufficient; but not for God's exercised children; they have other thoughts and other feelings upon these matters. They know what darkness of mind is, the power of unbelief, and creature helplessness; and they know that nothing short of the light of God's countenance, the manifestation of God's mercy, and the teaching and witness of God the Spirit, can make the work of Jesus appear in all its beauty, suitability, and glory; and therefore they can say,

 

"Let your work appear unto your servants. Give me, Lord, a sight by living faith of the atonement of Jesus. Show me" (the soul would cry in the language of Moses), "show me your glory; reveal in my heart the finished work of Jesus; sprinkle my conscience with his atoning blood; discover him to me, and thus give me a sweet manifestation of his Person, love, blood, and complete salvation. Let it, Lord, appear before my eyes, and in my heart, and seal it with divine power upon my conscience."

Psalm 90:17

"And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us—and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, the work of our hands establish it." Ps 90:17

 

What is this beauty? "The beauty of the Lord our God." It is, therefore, the beauty of the God-man; the loveliness, the holiness, the perfection, and glory that ever dwells in the Son of God. Now "days of affliction, and years of evil" have marred all creature loveliness. There was a time, perhaps, when we could take some pleasure and delight in what we were, or what we vainly fancied we would be. Our own righteousness had a beauty and loveliness to us; and our religion was amiable and pleasing in our own sight. But what has become of it? Marred, marred; totally marred. By what? "Days of affliction, and years of evil." These have effectually ruined, defaced, and polluted all creature loveliness. In a word, we were once deeply in love with self; but self has been shown to us such a hideous monster, in so vile and despicable a light, that we have fallen out of love with him altogether; and we have seen, at times, such beauty, glory, loveliness, and suitability in the Son of God, that as we have fallen out of love with self, we have fallen in love with Jesus.

 

Thus as all our own beauty and our own loveliness have been marred and defaced, the beauty and loveliness of the Lord have risen in due proportion. So that this has become the desire of our soul, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us. Let us stand accepted in it; let it be put upon us by the imputation of God himself; let us be clothed with it manifestly before the eyes of a heart-searching Jehovah. Let the beauty of Jesus' atoning blood, the beauty of his perfect righteousness, the beauty of his dying love, the beauty and holiness of his glorious Person be upon us, covering all our filth, guilt and shame, spreading itself over all our nakedness, sin and pollution, that when God looks upon us, he may not see us as we are—marred, defaced, and full of wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; but may see us standing accepted in the Beloved, with 'the beauty of the Lord our God' upon us." Oh, what a matchless robe is this! It outshines angels'—for it is the righteousness of God's only-begotten Son! And if we stand with "the beauty of the Lord our God" upon us, we can bid defiance to all law-charges, to all the accusations of a guilty conscience, and to all the darts from hell.

Psalm 91:1

"He who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." — Ps 91:1

 

What is "the secret place of the most High?" It is the same spot, of which Asaph speaks in the seventy-third Psalm—"Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end." It is the spot, of which the Lord speaks in Ezekiel—"I will be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come." Then this "secret place" is the secret bosom of God. It is an entrance by faith into Jehovah, by a spiritual manifestation of him, leading us into a spiritual acquaintance with him. "The secret place of the most High" is that solemn spot, where Jehovah meets with the sinner in Christ, and where he opens up to him the riches of his mercy, and leads him into his bosom, so as to read the secrets of his loving heart.

 

It is called a "secret" place, as only known to the those to whom it is especially communicated. It is called a "secret" place, because none can get into it—no, nor desire to get into it—except the Lord himself, with his own mysterious hand, opens up to them a part in it, sets them down in it, and sweetly blesses them in it. Then to be in "the secret place of the most High" is to be brought into something like fellowship and acquaintance with God—something like communion, spiritual worship, divine communion; so as to know something of him experimentally, and "run into" him, as "a strong tower," and there feel solemn safety.

Psalm 91:7

"A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you." Ps 91:7

 

When Noah was shut up in the ark, Noah and the favored few, you know how they were tossed about, the rains coming down from heaven, the waters rushing and dashing below. The windows of heaven were opened and the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and while they were thus dashed upon the waters, not a drop came in unto those who were within. "It shall not come near you." So you see the believer may be surrounded with troubles, and yet "it shall not come near him."

 

And there is something more in the expression used in reference to the making of the ark—"And shall pitch it within and without with pitch" (Ge 6:14). Now, it is a most remarkable fact that the word pitch in Hebrew signifies also atonement. Now see, the pitch with which the ark was daubed within and without kept every drop of water out. This very expression for pitch in the Hebrew signifies also atonement; and is it not the atonement that keeps out the water? Can anything but the atonement keep the soul from the waters of God's wrath and from the floods of vengeance that shall sweep away the world with the ungodly? There is nothing but the atonement, and that bears up the soul, and keeps out every drop of rain. "It shall not come near you."

 

"Many sorrows shall be to the wicked, but he that trusts in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about." "And not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." "Received the atonement." This is it, to have the "atonement." God cannot twice exact payment for the debt. He is satisfied; he has declared that he is well pleased with the righteousness of his beloved Son. He exacts no more; his justice demands no more, and, therefore, fury is not in him.

Psalm 91:14

"I will set him on high, because he has known my name." Ps 91:14

 

A man must know the Lord's name before ever he can feel any real love to him. Now this is needful, this is what the Lord does for his people, he causes them to know his name. "They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest" (Jer 31:34). "They shall all;" they shall. The Lord has declared it. They shall know me. Now what is the name of the Lord? When God revealed himself unto Moses, did he not say, "I AM THAT I AM?" This was the way God taught Moses his name, and we may gather from it that whatever God is, that is his name. God is holy, God is just, God is merciful, God is a God of love. Now the sinner must know this. He must know that God is a pure and holy God, and at first when he is beginning to learn this lesson, he is completely astonished and appalled by it. It causes him to shrink away and hide himself from God. "How can I appear before God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity?" he cries. And so you see it brings distress into his conscience.

 

It is the first work of the Spirit to "convince of sin," and a sense of God's holiness is that which brings us this conviction—our sin and God's purity. How can the sinner appear before and approach to God? And while he is under the terrors of the law, he is full of distress, and at times, perhaps, wishes he had never been born, and at other times he is tempted with hard thoughts of God, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not strawed. This is how God is seen in his perverted mind. The devil is at him, and tries all he can to harden his heart against the Almighty. But the terrors of the Almighty have taken hold of him, and he tries many ways to get these arrows extracted; but all his tugging and pulling only make the wound worse. And so he goes on until he is brought to see that God is a God of mercy—and this is revealed to him in and through the Lord Jesus. This is what clears up the mystery—when he sees Christ bleeding on the cross. Here he sees God is both a just God and a Savior. God is pure and holy, and exacts to the utmost farthing all the enormous debt he owes, and yet to the bleeding, broken heart, he, through Christ, can and does manifest his mercy.

Psalm 91:16

"With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation." Ps 91:16

 

It is not in the number of our years that we shall find preparedness for death. It is not the longer a man lives the more will he be satisfied. No such thing. Then what can the promise mean? Why, that God will satisfy his people with their length of life, whether long or short. God takes his children home at all ages, and he always satisfies them. He always brings them to see and feel that this life is empty and vain, and that it is better, far better, to live in his presence. You may be harassed by the thoughts of death, and be in bondage through the fears of death; and you may be saying, "How will it be with me then?" I will tell you.

 

If you are a child of God, I firmly believe you will not be removed unwillingly and reluctantly, but you will be willing in the day of the Lord's power. You will be willing to breathe out your soul into his dear hands, to whom you will commend your spirit; you will be willing to be with Christ, which is far better. You may not now be willing. If you pluck at an unripe apple, it resists the touch, but let it be fully ripe, how little, how slight a touch will cause it to drop from the tree. You shall be gathered as a shock of corn in its season. Why, a farmer will not gather in his grain until it is fully ripe; and do you think the Lord will gather his grain into his heavenly garner and it be in an unfit and unripe state? We cannot think it. Be that thought far from us, as it is far from the Lord.

 

"With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation." Ah! the soul will never see it unless the Lord shows it him; but the Lord will show it him. He says he will. "I will show him my salvation." What can he want more? All that he may want, all that he may need in his journey through this wilderness is there. Is there not a sufficiency? Is there not that which he feels is enough? If these promises be mine, be yours, and if they be fulfilled to you and to me, what more can we possibly want?

Psalm 94:12

"Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O Lord; the man you teach out of your law." Ps 94:12

 

We may observe in the words before us, that the Lord puts chastening before teaching. Is there not something remarkable in this? Why should chastening precede teaching? For this reason. We have no ear to hear except so far as we are chastened. It was so with the prodigal. Until he was brought to his right mind by strokes of hunger, he did not think of his father's house; he had no heart to return; but a mighty famine sent him home. So it is with God's children; as long as they are allowed to wander in their backslidings, they have no heart to return. But let the rod come; let them be driven home by stripes; then they have an ear to listen, while God teaches them to profit, instructs them by his blessed Spirit, and speaks into their heart those lessons which are for their eternal good.

 

"And teach him out of your law." "The law" in the Scriptures has a very wide signification; it means, in the original, instruction. The word is Torah, which signifies "teaching," or "direction." Thus the word "law" is not confined to the law of Moses given in thunder and lightning upon Mount Sinai; but it includes also the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ—"the perfect law of liberty;" "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus;" that law which was in the heart of the Redeemer, when he said, "I come to do your will, O God; yes, your law is within my heart."

 

Now, as the Lord teaches his children "out of the law," strictly so called, so he teaches them "out of the gospel"; and to my mind, there is something exceedingly sweet and expressive in the words "out of the law." It seems to convey, not only that the law is a treasure-house of wrath, but that the gospel also is a treasure-house of mercy. And as those who know most of the law are only taught "out of the law," and not the whole of the law, only a few drops, as it were, out of the inexhaustible wrath of God; so out of the heavenly treasure-house of the gospel, "the perfect law of liberty," it is but a little of grace and mercy that in this life can be known.

 

As Christ said to his disciples in promising the Spirit—"He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." He cannot take "all," and show it unto them; for none could live under the sight. The Spirit, therefore, takes of the things of Christ, and shows here a little, and there a little; some little blessedness here, and some little blessedness there; a suitable promise, a gracious testimony, a comforting text, an encouraging word, a sight of atoning blood, a smile of his countenance, a view of his Person, a discovery of his righteousness, or a glimpse of his love. This is taking of the things of Christ, and revealing them to the soul. And thus, the man whom the Lord takes in hand, he teaches "out of" the gospel by making Christ experimentally known, and revealing his dying love. And thus he teaches each and all "out of his law "—both the law from Sinai, and the law from Zion.

Psalm 103:1

"Bless the Lord, O my soul—and all that is within me, bless his holy name." Ps 103:1

 

As the Son has glorified the Father and the Father has glorified the Son, so there is a people in whom both the Father and the Son will be glorified. He therefore said, "And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one" (Joh 17:22); and again, "All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them." When, then, God's goodness and mercy in the face of Jesus Christ are manifested to this people whom he has formed for himself that they might show forth his praise, then they give him back his glory. But how is this done? By praising and blessing his holy name for the manifestation of his goodness and mercy to their soul. We thus see in what a blessed circle this glory runs. The Father glorifies the Son; the Son glorifies the Father; both unite in glorifying his chosen and redeemed people; and they glorify Father and Son by giving them the glory due to their name. We therefore read that "the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy." But how? "Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people. Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; and laud him, all you people" (Ro 15:9-11).

 

This is beautifully developed in Ps 103. It begins with blessing and praising God. "Bless the Lord, O my soul—and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits." Why was it that David called upon his soul to bless the Lord—yes, appealed to every faculty within him to unite in blessing his holy name? Why did he charge it upon his soul not to forget all God's benefits, but bear them in perpetual remembrance? For this reason—that he might render unto God a tribute of thankful praise. Now by this God is glorified, for whoever offers praise glorifies him. We cannot add to his glory; for his glory is above the heavens. It is infinite, eternal, ineffable. No creature therefore can add to it or take from it; but he does permit poor worms of earth to glorify him by giving him a tribute of thankful praise. But this we can only do by believing in his dear Son, receiving of his fullness grace for grace, and blessing and praising his holy name for the manifestation of his goodness, mercy, and love, as brought into our soul by his own divine power.

Psalm 103:4

"Who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies." — Ps 103:4

 

The coronation of a king puts the last and highest seal upon his reigning authority. This made the spouse say, "Go forth, O daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown with which his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart" (Song 3:11). And what a day will that be when the anti-typical Solomon is crowned Lord of all.

 

Thus there is a crown put upon the soul which is healed of all its diseases, and whose life is redeemed from destruction. It is as if God could not be satisfied until he had put the crown of his loving-kindness upon the soul, until he had himself crowned the heart with his own love. And what is the effect? The soul puts a crown of glory upon his head. So the soul has the crown of grace, and God has the crown of glory. This is being crowned with loving-kindness and tender mercies. And O what a crown it is! How it crowns all our iniquities, hides them from God's sight as a crown covers a monarch's brow. How it crowns all our trials that we have had to pass through, severe and cutting as they were at the time to the flesh. How it crowns all our bereavements by putting upon the bereaved heart the crown of God's loving-kindness. How it crowns all our prayers by enabling us to see their gracious answer. How it crowns all God's dealings with us in providence and in grace, and stamps loving-kindness upon them all; for the crown includes everything in it. As the Queen's crown includes her royalty, her dignity, her power—for all are symboled thereby—so God's loving-kindness, put upon the heart as a crown, includes and secures every blessing for time and eternity.

Psalm 103:8

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy; he will not always accuse; neither will he harbor his anger forever." Ps 103:8-9

 

God is angry and justly angry with the sins of his people. He hates sin with a perfect hatred. He cannot but entertain unceasing wrath against it. It is so contrary to the purity and perfection of his holy nature, that wherever he meets with sin his indignation flashes out against it. And until we have some discovery and manifestation of Christ to assure us of a saving interest in his precious blood and finished work, we cannot separate the anger of God against our sins from the anger of God against our persons.

 

But when the Lord is pleased to reveal a sense of his goodness and mercy in the Person and work of his dear Son, then we can see by the eye of faith that though he is angry with our sins, he is not angry with our persons, but accepts us in the Beloved, having chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Thus he retains not his anger forever. And why? Because it is atoned for, put away, not retained so as to burn to the lowest hell. The blessed Lord has offered a sacrifice for sin; put away the punishment and penalty due to transgression, propitiated and appeased, and thus put away his indignation and fiery displeasure against the sins of his people; for all the anger of God due to their sins and to their persons was discharged upon the Person of Jesus as he stood our representative and hung upon the cross a bleeding sacrifice, putting away sin by the offering of himself. This is the reason why he retains not his anger forever, it being appeased and put away through the atonement of our blessed Lord, that it should not burn against the persons of the people of God, nor consume them with the fiery indignation that shall burn up the wicked.

Psalm 104:27

"These wait all upon you; that you may give them their food in due season." Ps 104:27

 

The "food" which God's children long after, is to have "the truth as it is in Jesus," in its various branches, revealed with power to their heart. Not merely to see a certain truth in God's word—that is like a hungry beggar looking at savory provision through a window, from which he is barred out; such a sight whets his appetite rather than satisfies it. The food that God's people are longing after, and the only thing which can assuage their spiritual hunger, is "the truth as it is in Jesus" manifested, revealed, discovered, and applied with power to their souls; dew, unction, savor, sweetness, life, light, liberty accompanying the word, so that truth falls as heavenly manna into their hearts. It is not sufficient that the Holy Spirit should create the appetite, but he must overshadow the soul with his divine influences, breathe abroad a heavenly savor, and fill it with some sensations of his presence, with some meltings of heart at the feet of Christ, with some drawing forth of affection to God; and thus communicate an inward reception of the truth, and an enjoyment of its sweetness and savor.

 

"You give them." It is not to be taken out of the Bible, because it may be read; not to be caught up, as the minister throws it forth, because it may be heard; not to be got out of books; but to be bestowed by the holy hand of Jehovah himself, and received in the posture of a penitent, in the attitude of a suppliant, a sinner prostrate at the foot of the cross, without anything in self but wounds, condemnation, and guilt.

 

But there is a due season—"You give them their food in due season." There are many living souls, who are hungering after divine blessings, but the "due season" has not come. "The times and the seasons the Father has put in his own power." You are not yet fit for it; the Lord has to bring you lower; you will have to travel through darker paths, to pass through sorer exercises. There is a "due season" for the manifestation of gospel blessings; there is a fitting time, which the Searcher of hearts knows. And that Searcher of hearts knows that many of the true Church of God are at this present time in that state, that he will not manifest to them his greatest and richest blessings. There is a "due season," in which they are revealed and manifested to the soul; and that season will be as suitable to all its wants, as it will be most glorious to God. That "due season" will most probably be when the soul will least expect to receive it. The promise having been so long delayed, it seems as though it would never come; the blessing having been so long withheld, it appears as though the Lord would never bestow it; having denied his countenance so long, it seems as though he had drawn a black cloud over the throne, and through that cloud the rays of the sun would never shine.

 

But it is a "due season;" it will surely come; "though the vision tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry." There is a "set time to favor Zion," and when that set time arrives, the Lord will build up Zion and appear in his glory, for "he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer."

Psalm 106:1

THE ONE HUNDRED SIXTH PSALM
By
Elder Len Dalton (Deceased)

   Psalm One Hundred Five called upon the people to sing and praise the “wonderful works” of God. The song (Ps 106--Ed) calls for songs of praise, and the reason is that His mercies endure forever. Although He had patiently borne with them they had gone deeper and deeper into sin.

   The first section (Ps 106:1-31) deals with the people from Egypt and the Wilderness. These lines will describe things soon after the crossing of the Red Sea:

 “Then believed they His words;
  They sang His praises,
  They soon forgot His works;
  They waited not for His counsel.”

At first they seemed to be impressed with God’s ways, but they soon forgot them and went even deeper and deeper into sin. It seemed an easy matter for them to forget God’s might and His counsel.

   The above is the way matters seemed to go on through all the wide range of circumstances. The psalmist carries us on even to see and understand that the same conditions prevailed even in the land that that had been promised them and into which they had been lad.

   Moses was excluded because of the failure of His people in many respects. Being provoked, he simply left God out in the matter of supplying water for the people. He spoke unadvisedly with his lips. What a lesson this should be to us every day!

   Through pity and perhaps compromise of Moses they go on in their sin, but they go deeper and deeper until their lives become an abomination, suffering and shame. In all this, however, let us consider well this statement of the Lord, “He made them also to be pitied of all those who carried them captives.” Notwithstanding the hot burning of His wrath and judgment, yet the love of His heart for them never ceased. No wonder Solomon said that many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. A GREAT PSALM TO STUDY.

(From “Psalms In Reflections”, by Elder Len Dalton)

Psalm 106:4

"Remember me, O Lord, with the favor that you bear unto your people—O visit me with your salvation." — Ps 106:4

 

How is a man brought and taught to want to be "visited with" God's salvation? He must know something first of condemnation. Salvation only suits the condemned. "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost;" and therefore salvation only suits the lost. A man must be lost—utterly lost—before he can prize God's salvation. And how is he lost? By losing all his religion, losing all his righteousness, losing all his strength, losing all his confidence, losing all his hopes, losing all that is of the flesh; losing it by its being taken from him, and stripped away by the hand of God. A man who is brought into this state of utter beggary and complete bankruptcy—to be nothing, to have nothing, to know nothing—he is the man, who in the midnight watches, in his lonely hours, by his fireside, and at times, well-near night and day, is crying, groaning, begging, suing, seeking, and praying after the manifestation of God's salvation to his soul. "O visit me with your salvation."

 

He needs a visit from God; he needs God to come and dwell with him, take up his abode in his heart, discover himself to him, manifest and reveal himself, sit down with him, eat with him, walk with him, and dwell in him as his God. And a living soul can be satisfied with nothing short of this. He must have a visit from God. It profits him little to read in the word of God what God did to his saints of old; he needs something for himself, something that shall do his soul good; he needs something that shall cheer, refresh, comfort, bless, and profit him, remove his burdens, and settle his soul into peace. And therefore he needs a visitation—that the presence and power, the mercy and the love of God should visit his soul.

Psalm 106:5

"Let me share in the good of your chosen ones." — Ps 106:5

 

Did you ever see any good in God's chosen? Oh! "how goodly are your tents, O Jacob, and your tabernacles, O Israel!" Did you ever see what good God has blessed his people with, and how good it is to be one of them? All God's people see that there is a "good" in God's chosen family, peculiar to them, and that they sigh and long for. But some will say—Had David never seen it when he penned this psalm? Yes, surely; he had seen it. But did he not need to see it again? Yes; he had lost the sight of it, the sweet vision of it had retired, the old veil had come back, his eyes were dim, he needed fresh "eye-salve."

So with us; we have seen, we trust, at times "the good of God's chosen ones," have felt our affections drawn towards them, and drawn up towards God, and have said, "Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside you." That was to enjoy the sweet foretastes of heaven. But all these sweet foretastes became clouded; fogs and mists rested upon them, and hid them from our eye. Fresh sin brought fresh guilt—and darkness and deadness and doubts and temptations and fears and besetments came on of various kinds—and all these beclouded our sight. But we cannot forget the past; we cannot forget the solemn moments when we walked with God and talked with God, nor the sweet feelings that his presence enkindled. However dark, however dead, however disconsolate, however tried, harassed, and tempted—we cannot forget that. And having "seen the good of God's chosen ones," we want to see again the good sight, to taste again that heavenly banquet. "That I may see the good of your chosen ones."

"That I may rejoice in the gladness of your people." — Ps 106:5

 

What is "the gladness of God's people?" To be saved "without money and without price;" to be saved by grace—free, rich, sovereign, distinguishing grace, without one atom of works, without one grain of creature merit, without anything of the flesh. This is "the gladness of God's nation;" to rejoice in free grace, grace super-abounding over the aboundings of sin, grace reigning triumphant over the dreadful evils of our heart. It is grace that "gladdens" a man's heart. Oh! sweet grace, blessed grace! when it meets our case and reaches our souls. Oh! what a help, what a strength, what a rest for a poor toiling, striving, laboring soul, to find that grace has done all the work, to feel that grace has triumphed in the cross of Christ, to find that nothing is required, nothing is needed, nothing is to be done. It is a full and perfect, complete and finished work. Oh! sweet sound, when it reaches the heart and touches the conscience, and is shed blessedly abroad in the soul.

 

This is "the gladness of God's nation;" this makes their heart glad, that the work is finished, that the warfare is accomplished, that the Church of God "has received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins;" this is the comforting sound with which God "comforts his people;" this makes the nation glad, and their heart to leap and dance for joy. Has your heart never leaped at the sound?—only for a moment? Has grace never sounded sweetly in your soul, and made your very heart dance within you? If it has, you know what is "the gladness of God's nation."

"That I may glory with your inheritance." — Ps 106:5

 

The Church is Christ's inheritance. He purchased it by his own blood. He went into captivity for it, and he redeemed it by pouring out his precious blood for it. Now this inheritance glories—"That I may glory with your inheritance."

 

And in whom does the church glory? It glories in its covenant Head. It does not glory in itself—in its pious self, righteous self, strong self, religious self; "let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches, but let him that glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows me." "He that glories, let him glory in the Lord." The glory of the Church is to glory in her covenant Head—to glory in Christ and in Christ alone; to glory in his strength, love, blood, grace, and righteousness; and to glory in it, herself being covered with shame.

 

None can glory in Christ, until he is stripped of his own glory. There is no putting the crown of glory on the head of self AND on the head of the Mediator. There is no saying, "I have procured this by my own strength," and putting the crown upon that head. There is no saying, "I obtained this by my own exertions," and putting the crown upon those exertions. No; a man to glory in Christ must be covered with shame and confusion. He must be abased in his feelings; he must have his mouth in the dust; he must loathe himself in dust and ashes before God; he must see and feel himself to be the chief of sinners, and "less than the least of all saints;" he must know and feel himself to be a wretch indeed.  

And then when he lies in the dust of abasement, if a sight of the dear Redeemer's glory catches his eye and inflames his heart, he glories in him, and in him alone. And all the "inheritance" of God glory in him; they can glory in nothing else, and their highest attainment is to place all the glory of salvation from first to last simply upon his head, to whom that glory belongs.

Psalm 107:4

"They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in." Ps 107:4

 

"They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way;"—a way not tracked; a path in which each has to walk alone; a road where no company cheers him, and without landmarks to direct his course. This is a mark peculiar to the child of God—that the path by which he travels is, in his own feelings, a solitary way. This much increases his exercises, that they appear peculiar to himself. His perplexities are such as he cannot believe any living soul is exercised with; the fiery darts which are cast into his mind by the wicked one are such as he thinks no child of God has ever experienced; the darkness of his soul, the unbelief and infidelity of his heart, and the workings of his powerful corruptions, are such as he supposes none ever knew but himself. To be without any comfort except what God gives, without any guidance but what the Lord affords, without any support but what springs from the everlasting arms laid underneath; in a word, to be in that state where the Lord alone must appear, and where he alone can deliver, is very painful.

 

But it is the very painful nature of the path that makes it so profitable. We need to be cut off from resting upon an arm of flesh; to be completely divorced from all props to support our souls, except that Almighty prop which cannot fail. And the Lord will take care that his people shall deal only with himself; that they shall have no real comfort but that which springs from his presence, and no solid testimonies but those which are breathed into their conscience from his own lips. His object is to draw us away from the creature; to take us off from leaning on human pity and compassion; and to bring us to trust implicitly on himself, "whose compassions fail not,"—to lean wholly and solely upon him, who is "full of pity, and of tender mercy."

"They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses." Ps 107:4-6

 

Until they wandered in the wilderness—until they felt it to be a solitary way, until they found no city to dwell in, until hungry and thirsty their soul fainted in them—there was no cry. There might have been prayer, a desire, a feeble wish, and now and then a sigh or a groan. But this was not enough. Something more was needed to draw forth loving-kindness out of the bosom of the compassionate Head of the Church. A cry was needed—a cry of distress, a cry of soul trouble, a cry forced out of their hearts by heavy burdens. And a cry implies necessity, urgent need, a perishing without an answer to the cry. It is the breath of a soul bent upon having eternal realities brought into the conscience, or perishing without them. It is this solemn feeling in the heart that there is no other refuge but God.

 

The Lord brings all his people here—to have no other refuge but himself. Friends, counselors, acquaintance—these may sympathize, but they cannot afford relief. There is no refuge, nor shelter, nor harbor, nor home into which they can fly, except the Lord. Thus troubles force us to deal with God in a personal manner. They chase away that half-hearted religion of which we have so much; and they drive out that notional experience and dry profession that we are so often satisfied with. They chase them away as a strong north wind chases away the mists; and they bring a man to this solemn spot that he must have communications from God to support him under, and bring him out of his trouble; and if a man is not brought to this point by his troubles, they have done him no good. But what a mercy it is when there is a cry! and when the Lord sends a cry in the trouble, he is sure in his own time and way to send deliverance out of it.

Psalm 107:6

"Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses." Ps 107:6

 

Oh what a mercy it is that there is a God to go lo! a God who hears and answers prayer! And what a blessing it is to be able to unbosom before him the burdened spirit! Observe the words—"Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble." If you have trouble it is a sufficient warrant for you to go to God with it. Do not trouble yourself with the question, whether you are elect or non-elect. God does not put it in that shape, and you need not. The answer will best show on which side of the line you stand. Does he not say—"Call upon me in the day of trouble—I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me?" If you have a day of trouble, you have here a sufficient warrant to call upon God. Write not, then, bitter things against yourself. If you are enabled to sigh and cry unto the Lord there is life in your soul. God has quickened you by his blessed Spirit if he has put a sigh and cry into your bosom. Remember the men in Ezekiel on whom the Lord put the approving seal. It was those who sighed and cried for the abominations which they saw and felt in themselves and others (Eze 9:4). If, then, the Lord has put a sigh and cry into your bosom on account of your felt inward abominations, you are one of those on whom he has set his seal.

 

Sanctified troubles are some of our greatest blessings; and one of their blessed fruits is that they keep us from settling on our lees and being at ease in Zion. Careless, worldly-minded, proud, covetous professors, sunk in carnality and death, where is there ever a cry in their soul? They may have a formal prayer—a morning prayer, an evening prayer, a family prayer, and all as round as a ball, and as cold as ice. Stiff and frozen in carnality they are ice themselves, and they bring their ice with them wherever they come. But God does not allow his people to go on in this cold, lifeless, frozen, icy way, with mere formal devotion, lip service, and prayers worn out like an old shoe with long and continual treading. He sends afflictions, trials, and troubles upon them, takes them into the wilderness, exercises them well in the path of tribulation, and supporting them under it, raises up a cry which he is sure to hear.

Psalm 107:7

"And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation." Ps 107:7

 

When the Lord leads, we can follow. The path may be rough, but if the Lord upholds, we can walk in it without stumbling. Whatever the Lord bids, we can do if we have but his presence; whatever he calls upon us to suffer, we can bear if we have but the approbation of a good conscience and his approving smile. Oh, the wonders of sovereign grace! The cross is no cross if the Lord gives strength to bear it; affliction is no affliction if the Lord supports under it; trial is no trial if sweetened by his smile, and sorrow no grief if lightened by his love. It is our fretfulness, unbelief, carnal reasoning, rebellion, and self-pity which make a rough way a wrong way; but grace in its all-conquering power, not only subdues every difficulty without, but what is its greater triumph, subdues every difficulty within.

 

It is, and ever must be, one of the strongest principles of our faith, that every way must, in the end, be a right way if it be God's way. And is it not, according to the verdict of our own conscience, a right way to lead us forth out of the world, out of sin, out of self, out of pride and self-righteousness, out of evil in every form, into everything which is good, holy, gracious, acceptable, saving, and sanctifying; everything that can conform us to the image of Christ, who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and make us fit for the inheritance of the saints in light?

 

And what is the end of all this leading and guiding? "That they might go to a city of habitation"—the new Jerusalem, the glorious city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. There, some of our friends have gone before; there they dwell as citizens of that blessed city which is all of pure gold, like unto clear glass; a city which has no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of the Lord enlightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. This is the city of habitation where the saints will forever dwell; and the Lord is leading forth each and all of his wilderness wanderers by the right way, that he may bring them in the same way into his eternal presence, and to the enjoyment of those pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore.

 

"And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation." Ps 107:7

 

"He led them forth." Forth out of the world—forth out of sin—forth out of a mere profession—forth out of a name to live—forth out of everything hateful to his holy and pure eyes.

 

"To go to a city of habitation." They had no city to dwell in here below; but they were journeying to a city of habitation above, whose walls and bulwarks are salvation, and whose gates are praise; where there are eternal realities to be enjoyed by the soul; where there is something stable and eternal; something to satisfy all the needs of a capacious and immortal spirit, and give it that rest which it never could find while wandering here below. If we have a city here in this earth, we desire no city above; and if we have a city above, we desire no city here.

 

This then must be our state and case; either to be pilgrims, journeying onwards, through troubles, to things above, or taking up our abode below; seeking heaven here, or heaven hereafter; resting upon the world, or resting upon the Lord; panting after the things of time, or panting after the things of eternity; satisfied in self, or satisfied only in Christ. One of the two must be our state and case. The Lord decide it clearly in the hearts of his people that they are on his side; and give us to know and feel that our very restlessness and inability to find food and shelter in the things of time and sense, are leading us more earnestly and believingly to seek after the things that have reality in them; that finding no city to dwell in here below, we may press forward to be manifestly enjoying testimonies of being citizens of that city which is above, "which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God!"

Psalm 107:9

"He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness." — Ps 107:9

 

We find the living family of God sometimes set forth under the character of the 'hungry'. Let us see what they are hungering after. Is it pleasure, honor, promotion, respectability? O no; these toys and baubles cannot satisfy the spiritual hunger of a living soul. They cannot hunger after that on which they cannot feed. They hunger then after righteousness, as the Lord said—"Blessed are you who hunger and thirst after righteousness." They hunger after God himself in his blessed manifestations; they hunger after the bread of life which came down from heaven, that a man should eat thereof and not die.

 

Christ in the mere letter of the word cannot satisfy their keen appetite. They must feed upon him internally, or their famine still continues. To these hungry, famishing souls, to have Christ in the letter is like a starving beggar standing outside a shop where there is plenty of provisions, and not having a farthing to buy them with. What is Christ in the letter? Will a sight of Christ in the word of God remove the burden of guilt, bring peace into the soul, purge the conscience or subdue the power of sin? Will the mere doctrine of Christ draw up the affections to him, cast out the world, dethrone self, or purify the heart? "Alas!" we say by painful experience, "not one jot, not one jot." But the 'presence of Christ in the soul' can at once do all these things. Thus a hungry, famishing soul can only be pacified by Christ coming into his heart as the hope of glory.

Psalm 107:10

"Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death." Ps 107:10

 

What a blessed thing is light, the light of life, the light of God's countenance, of the glorious gospel, of Jesus' face! "Truly light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun." But to whom? To those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. How such hail the first rays of light! If you were shipwrecked, cast by night upon a desert rock, how you would hail the first beams of the morning light to show you where you were, and what hopes there were of final escape. So, similarly, how a sense of danger, magnified by the darkness, makes the shipwrecked soul hail the first beam of light, that it may see the way of escape from hell to heaven. How sweet to such it is to have any divine light dawn upon the mind, to have any breaking in of the goodness and mercy, grace and glory, of the blessed Jesus.

 

The more we sit in darkness, the more we prize light. Many high professors despise all this, and run out against it as a building upon frames and feelings, and making a Christ of our experience. Poor things! Their light is not worth having; and their religion, it is to be feared, is but a fire of their own kindling, the light of which will never light them to heaven. But why do they despise it? Because they never sit in darkness and the shadow of death. Therefore, really and truly, what is their light? A will-o'-the-wisp, a gas-lamp, a meteor, a falling star, anything, everything but the dayspring from on high, or the Sun of righteousness. But the Lord's people cannot be put off with a gas-lamp, a will-o'-the-wisp. They must have Jesus. They must have his blood upon their consciences, his grace in their hearts, his presence in their souls; sweet discoveries of his Person and work, the whispers of his love, the touch of his finger, the smiles of his face. They must have Jesus for themselves. "Give me Christ, or else I die," is their feeling.

 

But what makes them break forth with these earnest sighs and cries? They are in darkness and in the shadow of death. Were they otherwise, they would be content to remain as they naturally are; dark and dead. But feeling their state, it makes them long for the beams of light; and when it breaks in upon their soul, they can bless it because it comes from and leads to God.

 

"Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death." Ps 107:10

 

God's people are here represented not as sitting in death; were they sitting there, they would be dead altogether; but they are sitting in the shadow of death. Observe, death has lost its reality to them; it now can only cast a shadow, often a gloomy shadow, over their souls; but there is no substance in it. The quickening of the Spirit of God in them has destroyed the substance of death spiritually; and the death and resurrection of Jesus have destroyed the substance of death physically.

 

Yet, though the gloomy monster—deadness of soul; and that ghastly king of terrors—the death of the body; have been disarmed and destroyed by "Immanuel, God with us;" yet each of them casts at times a gloomy, darkling shadow over the souls of those who fear God. Is not your soul, poor child of God, exercised from time to time with this inward death? Deadness in prayer, deadness in reading the word, deadness in hearing the truth, deadness in desires after the Lord, deadness to everything holy, spiritual, heavenly, and divine? How it benumbs and paralyzes every breathing of our soul Godwards! Yet it is but a shadow. Write not bitter things against yourself, poor, tempted, exercised child of God, because you feel such deathliness and coldness from time to time in your heart. It will not destroy you; no, it is life in your soul that makes it felt; and the more the life of God has been felt in your conscience, the more painfully the deathliness of your carnal mind is experienced.

 

Do you expect that your 'carnal mind' will ever be lively in the things of God? What is it but a lump of death, a huge mass of ungodliness, which, like some Behemoth, upheaves its broad flanks continually in the heart? Yet the people of God are very often troubled in their minds by the gloomy shadow that this death casts over their souls. But this trouble is a mark of life. If I were dead, could I feel it? The worst symptom of those dead in sin is, that they do not feel it. But, while we feel it, while we sigh on account of it, while we hate it, and hate ourselves on account of it, though it may pain and grieve, it never can destroy. It has lost its substance, though it casts its gloomy shadow.

Psalm 107:20

"He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." Ps 107:20

 

What an effect a word from God can produce! Be it in reading; in hearing; on the knees; or in secret meditation; when a word drops from the Lord's mouth with any divine power into the soul, what a change it produces! And nothing but this divine power can ever bring a poor sinner out of his miserable condition. When this comes, it does the work in a moment; it heals all the wounds which sin has made, and repairs all the breaches in the conscience that folly has produced. One word from God heals them all. The Lord does not come as it were with plasters to heal first one sore and then another. He heals now as in the days of his flesh. When he healed then, he healed fully, at once, completely.

 

The earthly doctor heals by degrees; he puts a plaster on one sore, and a liniment on another; and heals one by one. But when the Lord heals, it is all done in a moment. The balm of Gilead flows over all the wounds, heals them up, and makes them perfectly whole. It is then with the soul as with the woman with the issue of blood; "she felt in her body she was healed of that plague." And this is healing! Any word from God, really from God, does it in a moment. If you can get but one word from God into your soul to make you believe you are a child of God, and savingly interested in his pardoning love and mercy, every wound, though there be a million, yes, every wound will be healed instantaneously. This is the only healing worth having.

 

To be healed by 'evidences' is like being healed by plasters. You need an evidence here, and an evidence there, as a man that has his body full of sores needs a plaster upon every wound. One word from God is the real panacea, the true, the only "heal-all;" and Jesus (Jehovah-rophi, "the Lord my healer") the only true infallible Physician. Would you be healed completely, you must look to the Lord, and not to man; be a Hezekiah, not an Asa.

Psalm 107:39

"Again, they are diminished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow." Ps 107:39

 

Oppression is the exercise of strength against weakness, the triumph of power over helplessness; so that poverty literally opens the door for oppression. It was so with Hezekiah. When Hezekiah was laid on his bed of sickness, death stared him in the face, and he expected he should be cut off, and cast into perdition. This opened the door for oppression; says he, "Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me." The cold damps of death stood upon his forehead, and despair pressed upon his soul. All his fleshly religion vanished in a moment; and he had but just faith and strength enough to cry out under the gripe of the oppressor's hand at his throat, "Undertake for me" (Isa 38:14).

 

Oppression then is a weight and a burden superadded to poverty. It is not the same thing as poverty, but it is an additional infliction to poverty. A man may be poor without being oppressed; but when he is poor and oppressed too, it makes the poverty tenfold greater than before. Thus the Lord, in his dealings with his people in order to bring them down, first strips them and makes them poor; and when he has made them poor, and brought them into the depths of soul-destitution, then he causes burdens to lie on them as heavy loads, as though they would sink them into a never-ending hell.

 

But here is the mark of life; the groaning, panting, sighing, and crying of the soul under the burden. The dead in sin feel nothing; the hypocrites in Zion feel nothing; and those that are at ease in a fleshly religion feel nothing. They may have powerful temptations; they may have alarming fears of going to hell; but as to any heavings up of a quickened conscience under the weight of oppression, as to any pouring out of the heart before God, or any giving vent to the distresses of the soul in sighs and cries unto the Lord to have mercy, to speak peace, and bring in a sweet manifestation of pardon and love, and to keep at this day after day, and night after night until the Lord appears; these are exercises unknown to the dead, and peculiar to the living family.

 

A man may "cry for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit" (Isa 65:14), but as the prophet speaks, "they do not cry unto God with their heart, when they howl upon their beds" (Ho 7:14). But to breathe and pant after the Lord, to groan and sigh because of oppression, to wrestle with the Savior and give him no rest until he appears in the soul—this inward work is known only to the elect, and is out of the reach of all who have a name to live while they are dead. It is the fruit of the pouring out of the spirit of grace and supplications into their soul; it is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, helping its infirmities, and making intercession in it with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Psalm 109:22

"For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me." Ps 109:22

 

The needy is a character who is not merely poor, empty, and naked before God, but who is feelingly in need of spiritual blessings applied to his soul. Some people can rest on temptations, and take temptations as evidences. Others can build on doubts and fears, and rest on doubts and fears as evidences. Some can take powerful past convictions, or present convictions, and lean on them as evidences. Others can look to a profession of religion, and take that as an evidence. But a living soul must have heavenly blessings communicated immediately to his heart and conscience from the mouth of God. He must have deliverance manifested to his soul as a reality; he must have the blood of Jesus sprinkled on his conscience with divine power, to purge it from filth and dead works; he must have his eyes anointed with eye-salve to see Jesus; yes, his soul pants to be led up into sweet communion with Jesus; he needs to be taken spiritually into fellowship with Christ, that he may see him with the eyes of his soul, that he may look upon him whom he has pierced, mourn over him, and for him, and with him, and have some sweet, spiritual, and supernatural manifestation of his dying love to his soul.

 

A nominal Christ will never do for a needy sinner, but it must be Christ made spiritually known by the power of the Holy Spirit, sweetly revealed and coming into his heart with all his blessed efficacy, and shining into his soul like the sun in his strength, beaming forth blessed rays of grace and mercy. Nothing but this will ever satisfy a soul that has life in it.

Psalm 109:31

"For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul." — Ps 109:31

 

How cheering, how comforting it is, to have a friend to stand by us when we are in trouble. Such a friend is Jesus. In the hour of necessity, he comes as a friend to stand by the right hand of the poor creature, whose soul is condemned by guilt and accusations. But he stands in a far higher relation than that of a friend; he stands also as a Surety and a Deliverer. He goes, as it were, into the court; and when the prisoner stands at the bar, he comes forward and stands at his right hand as his surety and bondsman; he brings out of his own bosom the acquittance of the debt signed and sealed with his own blood, he produces it before the eyes of the court, and claims and demands the acquittal and absolution of the prisoner at whose right hand he stands. He stands there, then, that the prisoner may be freely pardoned, and completely justified from those accusations that "condemn his soul." O sweet standing!—O blessed appearance!

 

Unbelief, the workings of a desperately wicked heart, and the fearful suggestions of the enemy, come forward to condemn us; but Christ Jesus, this Mediator between God and man, "stands at the right hand of the poor," and produces his own glorious righteousness. Are we pressed down with unbelief? He communicates faith. Is our mind sinking into despair? He breathes into it hope. Is the soul bowed down with guilt, at a distance from God, unable to approach him on account of its heavy temptations? He puts his own arm under this poor dejected soul and lifts up his bowed-down head, and then the soul looks upwards, and instead of wrath sees the countenance of the Father beaming mercy and love, because the Surety is "standing at the right hand of the poor."

Psalm 112:4

"Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness." Ps 112:4

 

We often get into such dark paths, that we seem altogether out of the ways of God, and feel as if there were no more grace in our souls, than in one altogether dead in trespasses and sins. And whether we look back at the past, or view the present, or turn our eyes to the future, one dark cloud seems to rest upon the whole; nor can we, with all our searching, find to our satisfaction that we have one spark of true religion, or one atom of grace, or one grain of vital godliness, or any trace that the Spirit of God has touched our consciences with his finger.

 

Now, when we are in this dark, benighted state, we need light; we need the blessed Sun of righteousness to arise; we need the south wind to blow a heavenly gale, and drive the mists away; we need the clouds to part, and the light of God's countenance to shine into our souls, so as to show us where we are, and what we are, and make it clear, that base and vile as we are, yet that we have a saving interest in the love of the Father, the blood of the Son, and the teachings of the Holy Spirit. And when his word begins to distill like the rain and to drop like the dew, when the Lord himself is pleased to speak home one sweet testimony, one little word, one kind intimation—what a change it makes! The clouds break away, the fog clears off, the mists dissolve, and the soul becomes sweetly persuaded of its saving interest in the blood and love of the Lamb.

Psalm 115:1

"Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name give glory, for your mercy, and for your truth's sake." Ps 115:1

 

Many of God's dear children cannot get much beyond gentle intimations of his mercy, passing touches of his gracious hand, and softenings of heart under a sense of undeserved goodness and love; yet they feel sensibly relieved by what their faith thus lays hold of and brings in, and give glory to God. Sometimes again, as they hear the preached word and get a blessing under, it, or some precious promise comes home to their soul with divine power, or they are favored in secret prayer, and light and life break in upon their mind, they see such a glory in what is thus made known to them, that they glorify God for what they see and feel. But more especially when the way of salvation is opened up to them; when Christ is revealed to their soul by the power of God; when they see that wondrous plan unfolded, how God can be just, and yet the justifier of him who believes in Jesus; then as they view in the greatness of the mystery of the Person of Christ the blessed solution of the problem which has so exercised their mind, they freely and fully give all the glory to God. "Lord," they cry, "who and what am I, that you should have had pity and compassion upon me, should have touched my heart by your grace, should have planted your fear in my breast, led me to pray and seek your face, and listened to my feeble cries, should thus have given me to hope in your mercy, and blessed my soul with a manifestation of your dear Son? Oh, who and what am I to be thus favored, when thousands are left to perish in their sins? Oh, how glorious are you! what a good God! how your mercy melts my heart, and your goodness softens my soul! To your name be all the honor and praise, both now and forever and ever."

 

Here is giving glory to God. Thus, true faith will always give God the glory; will never take an atom of its own praise to itself, but will ascribe the whole glory to God as its sole author and finisher, until blessings here end in blessings hereafter, and streams of grace on earth issue into the boundless ocean of glory in heaven.

Psalm 116:9

"I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living." — Ps 116:9

 

There is a distinction between walking before God and walking with God. To walk before God is to walk with an abiding sense of God's eye being upon us; to walk with a desire to do those things which are pleasing in his sight; to walk in his ordinances blameless; to walk before his people with our garments unspotted by the world; in a word, to walk before him in private as in public, alone and in company, before the Church and the world, by day and by night, as we should walk if we had a personal view of his glorious majesty in heaven before our eyes.

 

Now if you carried about with you a deep and daily sense that God saw every thought, marked every movement, heard every word, and observed every action, this sense of his presence would put a restraint upon your light, trifling, and foolish spirit. You would watch your thoughts, your words, your actions, as living under a sense of God's heart-searching eye. This is to walk before God.

 

But we read of Enoch that he "walked with God." This is a more advanced stage of the divine life. To walk with God is to walk with him in sweet familiarity, in holy confidence, in a blessed sense of a saving interest in his love and grace, and thus to walk with him and talk with him as a man walks and talks with his friend. There are some who walk before God, but how few walk with God! Many live under a more or less deep and daily sense of God's heart-searching presence, who are not admitted into this sweet familiarity, nor enjoy the blessedness of this heavenly communion.

Psalm 118:27

"God is the Lord, who has showed us light." — Ps 118:27

 

If God the Lord has showed us light, he has showed us light both with respect to himself and with respect to ourselves. He has showed us with respect to himself who he is; he has stamped something of himself upon our consciences; he has discovered something of his glorious character to our souls; and brought us, under the operation of the Holy Spirit, into his presence, there to receive communications of life out of Christ's inexhaustible fullness. Thus in this light we see and feel that we have to do with a heart-searching God; in this light we see and feel that we have to do with a sin-hating God; with a God who will not be mocked nor trifled with.

 

In this light we see and feel that every secret of our heart, every working of our mind is open before him; and in this light, so far as he is pleased to manifest it, we see what we are in his holy and pure eyes—a mass of sin, filth, and corruption, without help, without strength, wisdom, or righteousness, without creature loveliness, without anything of which we can say that it is spiritually good.

 

Again, God the Lord, showing us light, has showed us more or less of the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. He has not only showed us what we are by nature, but he has in a measure condescended to show us what we are by grace; not merely brought into our hearts some acquaintance with himself as a God of perfect justice, but he has also brought, more or less, into our souls some acquaintance with him as a God of mercy; and has thus brought us, in some solemn measure, to know him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent; and, thus, to have the springing up of spiritual life more or less, each according to his measure, in our souls.

 

"Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." Ps 118:27

 

Are you a poor broken-hearted child of the living God? Is there any measure of the Spirit of Christ in you? Is there any faint resemblance of his meekness and holy image stamped upon you? Then you feel yourself bound with cords to the horns of the altar. You feel the strong ties of necessity, and you feel the strong ties of affection binding you there. But with this, you feel also that you are a struggling victim; that you would gladly escape the troubles and trials that being bound to the horns of the altar brings upon you; you would gladly get into an easier path if you could; or if you dared, would willingly set up some altar yourself, made after the pattern of Damascus (2Ki 16:10); and would gladly, like the Roman Catholic, worship with your body a material cross, instead of worshiping in your soul the adorable God-man who hung and bled there. You would gladly, if you could, step out of a self-loathing, exercised, tried, harassed, and tempted path, to get into the flowery meadow of doctrine and speculation, and there walk at ease without one pang in your conscience, or one trial in your soul.

 

But the Lord has said, "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." You are bound to the horns of the altar. From those horns you cannot escape. You may fume, fret, and rebel against all or any of these cords, but you cannot break them. Aye, you may, in your strugglings, stretch to their utmost extent these cords; but they are too firmly fastened round your tender conscience, and too strongly wreathed round your broken heart, for you to burst them. They would sooner cut your heart in two, than you could break them, or escape from them.

And in your right mind, you would not be otherwise than bound with cords to the horns of the altar. In your right mind, you want the cords tightened, and so to be drawn nearer and nearer unto it; and to have the blood that was shed upon it sprinkled upon your conscience. In your right mind, you want to see with the eye of faith the Victim that once lay bleeding and writhing there; and as you look upon him, to drink into his image, and to feel the melting power and softening efficacy of that sight.  

But, then, connected with it, there are such trials, such temptations, and such sacrifices, that you, in your fits of rebellion or flesh-pleasing ease, would at times as gladly get away, as at other times, you would gladly get near. Vile wretches that we are, who would often prefer to serve the flesh and the world, and take our chance, as men speak, for eternity, than suffer trials and temptations as the followers of Christ! But it is our mercy that we can neither make nor unmake, do nor undo, bind nor break any one cord of eternal love, but that, in spite of the creature, God will "fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power."

"God is the Lord, who has showed us light." Ps 118:27

 

The Psalmist was clearly possessed of light, for he says, "God is the Lord, who has showed us light." He was evidently, then, possessed of light; and this light was in him as "the light of life." This light had shone into his heart; the rays and beams of divine truth had penetrated into his conscience. He carried about with him a light which had come from God; in this light he saw light, and in this light he discerned everything which the light manifested. Thus by this internal light he knew what was good and what was evil, what was sweet and what was bitter, what was true and what was false, what was spiritual and what was natural.

 

He did not say, This light came from creature exertion, this light was the produce of my own wisdom, this light was nature transmuted by some action of my own will, and thus gradually rose into existence from long and assiduous cultivation. But he ascribes the whole of that light which he possessed unto God the Lord, as the sole Author and the only Giver of it. Now, if God the Lord has ever showed you and me the same light which he showed his servant of old, we carry about with us more or less a solemn conviction that we have received this light from him.  

There will, indeed, be many clouds of darkness to cover it; there will often be doubts and fears, hovering like mists and fogs over our souls, whether the light which we have received be from God or not. But in solemn moments when the Lord is pleased a little to revive his work, at times and seasons when he condescends to draw forth the affections of our hearts unto himself, to bring us into his presence, to hide us in some measure in the hollow of his hand, and give us access unto himself; at such moments and seasons we carry about with us, in spite of all our unbelief, in spite of all the suggestions of the enemy, in spite of all doubts, fears, and suspicions that rise from the depths of the carnal mind, in spite of all these counter-workings and underminings, we carry about with us at these times a solemn conviction that we have light, and that this light we have received from God. And why so? Because we can look back to a time when we walked in no such light, when we felt no such light, when everything spiritual and heavenly was dark to us, and we were dark to them.

Psalm 119:17

"Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live, and keep your word." Ps 119:17

 

Can the Lord deal any way but bountifully with his servants? Why has he made you his servants? Why did he strike the chains of former servitude off your hands? Why did he bring you out of the service of sin, the world, Satan, and self? Why did he ever make himself precious to your heart, win your affections, and enable you to give yourselves wholly unto him? That he might cast you off? that he might mock your calamity? that he might trample you one day into hell? that he might leave you to yourself, that he might allow Satan to overcome you, permit your lusts to destroy you; or allow your sins to be tied one day, like a mill-stone, round your neck to sink you into hell?

 

Oh, can our heart ever indulge thoughts so derogatory to sovereign grace? Was it not because the Lord had bounty in his heart towards you, that he first turned your heart towards himself? Was it not because the Lord had purposes of love towards you, that he first led your feet into his paths? Was it not because God first loved you, that he gave his Son to die for you?

 

Now if he has taught you, led you, upheld you, kept you, all this time, is it to cast you off now—to let you sink at last? He cannot do so, will not do so. Those whom he loves, he loves to the end; the good work which he has begun, he will accomplish, and bring to final perfection; and therefore all the Lord's acts are acts of bounty.

Psalm 119:31

"I hold fast to your testimonies—O Lord, put me not to shame." Ps 119:31

 

In whatever state or stage of experience you are, it will be your wisdom and your mercy to hold fast to God's testimony. Has the Lord just begun a work of grace in your heart? Is he showing to you what you are by nature, and bringing before your eyes the sins of your youth, and plunging you in deep convictions? It will be your wisdom, and it will be your mercy, to hold fast to that testimony; not to be driven from your standing into despair, nor pushed forward into fleshly confidence; but to hold fast to that testimony which God himself has implanted.

 

Has God made you to sigh and cry from the depths of a broken heart—to fall down before his truth? Hold fast to that testimony; he will not put you to shame. Again, if the Lord has done a little more for you, shown you the least glimpse of mercy and favor, and given you some little testimony of your saving interest in the blood of the Lamb, it will be your wisdom, and it will be your mercy, to hold fast to that testimony too. You will find those who would push you presumptuously forward; you will find those who would drive you despairingly backward; you will find those who would pull you down into those doubts and fears that their own minds are exercised with, and you will find those who would draw you aside into the vain confidence in which they themselves are standing. It will be your wisdom and mercy to abide by the testimony which God himself has revealed; and he can work in your soul that faith whereby you can and will hold fast to his testimony.

 

But some may say, "How do I know that I am holding fast to God's testimonies?" I would ask, what are the feelings of your hearts towards them? Is there godly fear? Is there holy reverence? Is there trembling awe? Is there any exercise of soul? any pouring out of the heart before God? any realizing of his presence? any trembling lest you should offend him? any desire after him? any solemn feelings whereby your soul is exercised upon his perfections? Then there is reason to believe there is some testimony of God in your conscience, and that you are holding fast to it.

 

But if your religion be such as leads to vain confidence, to self-righteousness, to presumption, to false security, and to a careless, light, trifling spirit, depend upon it—you are not holding fast to God's testimony, or else you have no testimony from God to hold fast unto. But if the Lord is bringing into your soul some sense of his displeasure; if you have trifled with him, and brought guilt into your soul and trouble into your mind, it will be your wisdom, and it will be your mercy to do, as the Lord speaks in Le 26:41, "accept the punishment of your iniquity;" to put your mouth in the dust, and confess that you are vile; not to turn aside to presumptuous confidence as though you would blunt the edge of God's sword in your soul, but to receive it in your heart, embrace it in your conscience, and to cleave to it as the testimony of God himself. "I have held fast unto your testimonies." To cleave to everything which God makes known in the conscience, be it judgment, be it mercy, be it a smile, be it a frown, be it a testimony for, be it a testimony against, whatever it be that comes with power, and is brought to the soul by the application of the Spirit—to cleave to it, keeps the soul in a safe and blessed spot.

Psalm 119:41

"Lord, give to me your mercies, the salvation that you promised me. Then I will have an answer for those who taunt me, for I trust in your word." Ps 119:41-42

 

A living soul wants to return an answer to the one who reproaches him. But he cannot do it of himself, for he has not a word to speak in self-justification; that is utterly cut off; and therefore he needs to have that which shall furnish him with an answer to these reproaches. And what alone can furnish him with an answer? The mercies of God in his soul. "Lord, give to me your mercies, the salvation that you promised me. Then I will have an answer for those who taunt me, for I trust in your word." The coming in of "mercies" into the soul, and the manifestation of "salvation" to the heart afford an answer "for those who taunt me."

 

If you will observe, the word "mercies" is in the plural number, there being many mercies; but "salvation" is in the singular number, there being only one salvation. In what way, then, did the Psalmist want these mercies? Merely as standing in the letter of the word? Only as recorded in the inspired word of truth? As things to look at, as objects hung up, as it were, in a picture, merely for the eye to gaze upon? No; he wanted them in his heart, to "come to him," to visit him, to be breathed into him, to be made part and parcel of him, to be the life-blood that should circulate in his veins, to be the very kingdom of God set up with power in his soul.

 

And why did he want internal mercies? Because he had internal reproaches. Why did he need mercies in his soul? Because condemnation was in his soul. It was there the sentence of death was written; it was there the sentence of acquittal was to be recorded. It was there that reproach was felt; it was there the answer to the reproach was to be given. If the reproach were merely outward, the answer might be outward also; but the reproof being inward, in the heart, in the conscience, in the feelings, it was needed that the answer should be in the same place, written in the same spot, engraved in the same tablets, and brought home with the same or far greater power, so as to be a sufficient answer to the reproaches of him that reproached him.

Psalm 119:71

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes." Ps 119:71

 

We may have everything naturally that the carnal heart desires, and only be hardened thereby into worldliness and ungodliness. But to be brought down in body and soul, to be weaned and separated from an ungodly world by affliction sanctified and made spiritually profitable—to be brought to feel our need of Christ, and that without a saving interest in his precious blood our soul must be forever lost—how much better it is really and truly, to be laid on a bed of affliction, with a hope in God's mercy, than to be left to our own carnality and thoughtlessness.

 

Affliction of any kind is very hard to bear, and especially so when we begin to murmur and fret under the weight of the cross; but when the Lord afflicts it is in good earnest; he means to make us feel. Strong measures are required to bring us down; and affliction would not be affliction, unless it were full of grief and sorrow. But when affliction makes us seek the Lord with a deep feeling in the soul that none but himself can save or bless, and we are enabled to look up unto him, with sincerity and earnestness, that he would manifest his love and mercy to our heart, he will appear sooner or later.

 

The Lord, who searches the heart, knows all the real desire of the soul, and can and does listen to a sigh, a desire, a breath of supplication within. He knows our state, both of body and soul, and is not a hard taskmaster to require what we cannot give, or lay upon us more than we can bear. But very often he delays to appear, that he may teach us thereby we have no claim upon him, and that anything granted is of his pure compassion and grace.

Psalm 119:81

"My soul faints for your salvation—but I hope in your word." Ps 119:81

 

How difficult, for the most part, it is, and we may add, how rare to be able to realize for ourselves, with any degree of abiding permanency, a sweet experimental sense of, and an assured interest in, those spiritual blessings with which, so far as we are believers in the Son of God, we are blessed in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Glimpses, glances, transient views, sips and tastes, drops and crumbs sweet beyond expression while they last, but rarely given and soon gone, are, generally speaking, all we seem to get after much hard labor, many cries, earnest entreaties, and vehement longings before the Lord, as he presents himself to our faith, seated on the throne of his grace. How many there are who are daily and sometimes almost hourly crying out, if not in the exact words, yet in the substance of them— "O come, you much-expected guest; Lord Jesus, quickly come!"

 

And yet how long he seems to delay his coming! How continually are they looking upward until eyes and heart seem alike to fail, waiting for his appearing more than those who watch for the morning; how willing to make any sacrifice, to do anything, be anything, or bear anything, if he would but manifest himself to their souls. How often are they searching and examining their hearts, lips, and lives, to see if there be any evil way in them, that makes him hide his lovely face, and not drop one word into their longing breasts, whereby they might hold sweet communion with him! How they desire to be blessed with real contrition of heart, and godly sorrow for their sins, and be melted and dissolved at his feet, under a sight and sense of his bleeding, dying love!

 

But whence spring all these longing looks and waiting expectations? Do not all those earnest desires and vehement longings show that those in whom they so continually are found, are begotten again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? It is divine life in their souls which is the spring and source of these inward breathings, lookings, and longings; and this divine life arises out of a new and spiritual birth, which is itself the fruit of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is not the still-born child that cries; it is the cry of the living child which so goes to the heart of the mother. Thus the cries of which we have spoken show that there is life.

 

But with life there is hope; for why should a man be ever crying after, waiting for, and anxiously expecting a blessing which he has no hope ever to obtain? If, then, these had no living hope, would they cry? There are no cries in a dead hope. It is because the grace of hope in their breasts is, like every other grace of the Spirit, alive unto God, that it acts in union with faith and love, to bring them and keep them earnest, sincere, and unwearied before the throne, expecting and anticipating what God has promised to bestow on those who wait upon him.

Psalm 119:105

"Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Ps 119:105

 

O what a change takes place in the soul's feelings toward the word of God when God is pleased to quicken it into divine life! Nor, indeed, need we wonder why there is such a marked revolution in our feelings toward it; for it is by the power of God's word upon the heart that this wondrous change is effected. "Of his own will he begat us with the word of truth" (Jas 1:18). Other books may instruct or amuse; they may feed the intellect, charm the imagination, and cultivate the mind. But what more can they do? I do not mean by this to despise or set aside every other book but the Bible, for without books society itself, as at present constituted, could not exist; and to burn every book would be to throw us back into the barbarism of the Middle Ages. Let, then, books have their place as regards this life; but what can they do for us as regards the life to come? What can our renowned authors, our choice classics, our learned historians, our great dramatists, or our eloquent poets do for the soul in seasons of affliction and distress? How powerless all human writings are in these circumstances. Is it not as Hart well says—

 

"What balm could wretches ever find

In wit, to heal affliction?

Or who can cure a troubled mind

With all the pomp of diction?"

 

Now here is the blessedness of the word of God, that when everything else fails, that comes to our aid under all circumstances, so that we can never sink so low as to get beyond the reach of some promise in the word of truth. We may come, and most probably shall come, to a spot where everything else will fail and give way but the word of God which forever is settled in heaven. Then the word of grace and truth which reaches down to the lowest case, the word of promise upon which the Lord causes the soul to hope, will still turn towards us a friendly smile, and still encourage us under all circumstances to call upon the name of the Lord, and to hang upon his faithfulness who has said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."

 

Thus, under circumstances the most trying to flesh and blood, where nature stands aghast and reason fails, there the word of God will come in as a counselor to drop in friendly advice, as a companion to cheer and support the mind by its tender sympathy; and as a friend to speak to the heart with a loving, affectionate voice. We need not wonder, then, how the word of God has been prized in all ages by the family of God; for it is written with such infinite wisdom, that it meets every case, suits every circumstance, fills up every aching void, and is adapted to every condition of life and every state both of body and soul.

Psalm 119:117

"Hold me up, and I shall be safe."—Ps 119:117

 

We are surrounded with snares; temptations lie spread every moment in our path. These snares and temptations are so suitable to the lusts of our flesh, that we shall infallibly fall into them, and be overcome by them but for the restraining providence or the preserving grace of God. The Christian sees this; the Christian feels this. He has had, it may be, a bitter experience of the past. He has seen how, from lack of walking in godly fear, for lack of circumspection and standing upon his watch-tower, he has been entangled in times past in the snares of death. He has regretted the consequences, felt the misery of having slipped and fallen; the iron has entered into his soul; he has been in the prison house, in bondage, in darkness, and death. In consequence of his transgressions he has been "the fool" described in Ps 108, as "afflicted because of his iniquity."

 

As, then, a burnt child dreads the fire, so he dreads the consequence of being left for a moment to himself; and the higher his assurance rises and the clearer his views become of the grace of God which brings salvation, and of his own interest in it, the more is he afraid that he shall fall. If his eyes are more widely opened to see the purity of God, the blessedness of Christ, and the efficacy of atoning blood, the more also does he see of the evil of sin, and his own weakness and inability to stand against temptation in his own strength. And all these feelings combine to raise up the earnest cry, "Hold me up, and I shall be safe."

Psalm 119:130

"The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding unto the simple." — Ps 119:130

 

The word "simple" means literally something which is not folded or twisted together. But owing to the treacherous and desperately deceitful heart of man, all, without exception, in a state of nature are the reverse of this. All their plots and contrivances for worldly profit or fleshly pleasure are tangled and complicated; and they are continually twisting together some thread or other of carnal policy.

 

But when God the Holy Spirit begins the work of grace upon the souls of the elect, he proceeds (if I may use the expression) to untwist them. He takes hold of that rope which Satan and their own hearts have been twisting together for years, and he untwists it throughout its whole length, so as to leave the strands not intertwined as before, but sifted, separated, and isolated from each other. The light that shines into the soul out of the fullness of Jesus discovers to a man the tortuousness, the crookedness, the complicated deceit and hypocrisy of which he is guilty. A man then is made "simple," when the folds and rumples of his heart are shaken out, and he is brought to see and feel that God looks into him; that his eye penetrates into every recess of his bosom; and that there is not a thought in his heart, nor "a word in his tongue, but the Lord knows it altogether" (Ps 139:4).

 

This character is aptly represented by Nathaniel. He had gone through this untwisting work in his soul. He had been under the fig-tree, and while kneeling and praying there, the eye of God looked into him, and just as a flash of lightning runs, in a moment, through a coil of wire, so, when the eye of God looked into Nathaniel's soul, that instantaneous flash unraveled and untwisted the devices of his heart, and made him a simple man before him—"an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no deceit" (Joh 1:47).

 

"The entrance of your words gives light." Ps 119:130

 

The blessed Spirit is pleased sometimes to give some testimony concerning Jesus, to open up some passage of Scripture which speaks of Jesus, to cast a divine light before the astonished eyes, and to throw some of the blessed beams of gospel truth into our souls, whereby we see Jesus. We are brought sometimes in soul feeling to the desires of those Greeks who came up to worship at the feast, and went to Philip, saying, "Sir, we would see Jesus;" and from some apprehension of his beauty and loveliness, we pour out our soul before God, and say, "We would see Jesus." We want to feel his love, to have our eyes anointed to behold his glory, to look upon him as crucified for us and bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, that we may have a sweet and blessed fellowship with him as our suffering Surety, and thus, by faith, enter into the length and breadth and depth and height of that love of his "that passes knowledge."

 

Wherever there is a work of grace upon the soul, there will be this pining after Christ. The soul that is really taught of God can never rest satisfied short of Jesus. "There remains a rest to the people of God," and they can never be satisfied short of that rest, which consists in an experimental knowledge of the Son of God, as revealed by the Holy Spirit to their souls. But before the enjoyment of this spiritual rest, there is often long delay; clouds of darkness for months and years together often envelope the mercy-seat; the cross of Christ cannot be seen; the Holy Spirit does not fulfill his covenanted office in taking of the things of Christ, and showing them to the soul; and in the absence of these heavenly manifestations, we cannot realize our saving interest in the things of salvation, nor can we feel our hearts sweetly composed and settled down in the blessed assurance, that when this life shall come to a close, we shall inhabit mansions prepared for us before the foundation of the world. When "with clouds he covers the light, and commands it not to shine by the cloud that comes between," there are many doubts and fears, suspicions, surmises, and jealousies whether we are not deceived and deluded altogether. At such seasons, everything seems to be against us, and to stamp us as being nothing but nominal professors.

 

It is in such dark and gloomy seasons as these that "the entrance of God's words gives light." For instance, some such promise as this is made sweet to the soul—"Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." As that promise is brought home with power to the heart, and is shed abroad with some sweetness in the soul, it draws forth and strengthens faith, and the toiling pilgrim comes to the Lord, feeling himself "weary and heavy laden," and as he comes, he is indulged sometimes with a few sweet moments of rest. He is enabled to look out of fallen self, with all its miseries, and to look upon Jesus in his grace and beauty. He is favored to cast himself simply, as he is, upon Jesus, and some sense of his atoning blood, dying love, and complete atoning sacrifice for sin is opened up to his heart. Faith springs up to lay hold of and embrace it, and he begins to taste the savor and sweetness and healing efficacy of a Savior's blood and love.  

Thus "the entrance of God's words gives light," and he feels by the divine coming in of what God has externally revealed, that inward light is shed abroad in the recesses of his soul, and he can, in some measure, realize the power of the cross of Jesus in his heart.

Psalm 119:146

"I cried unto you; save me, and I shall keep your testimonies."—Ps 119:146

 

If you know anything for yourself inwardly and experimentally of the evils of your heart, the power of sin, the strength of temptation, the subtlety of your unwearied foe, and that daily conflict between nature and grace, the flesh and the spirit, which is the peculiar mark of the living family of heaven, you will find and feel your need of salvation as a daily reality. Do not think that the only salvation to be felt and known is salvation past—salvation accomplished by the blood shedding and death of the Son of God.

 

There is present salvation—an inward, experimental, and continual salvation communicated out of the fullness of Christ as a risen Mediator. Don't you need to be daily and almost hourly saved? But from what? Why, from everything in you that fights against the will and word of God. Sin is not dead in you. If you are reconciled and brought near to God; if you have an interest in the precious blood of Christ; if your name is written in the Lamb's book of life, and heaven is your eternal home, that does not deliver you from the indwelling of sin, nor from the power of sin either, except as grace gives you present deliverance from it. Sin still works in your carnal mind, and will work in it until your dying hour. What then you need to be saved from is the guilt, filth, power, love, and practice of indwelling sin.

Psalm 119:175

"Let my soul live, and it shall praise you; and let your judgments help me." Ps 119:175

 

When we "live," we live by faith; as the Apostle says, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God." We live by faith when the Lord is pleased to communicate true faith, the precious gift of faith to the heart. Then indeed we believe. We then believe in Jesus, believe in his blood, believe in his righteousness, believe in his Person, believe in his dying love; and as faith begins to lift up its drooping head in the soul, we begin to live a life of faith in the Son of God. And as we begin to live, we also begin to love. When we are in darkness, coldness, and barrenness, there is neither love to God nor man; the very ways of God are a thorough misery to us; the Bible is neglected, and prayer is little attended to; under preaching we are cold, dead, and listless; the company of God's people is forsaken, and the things of eternity seem to fade from our view.

 

But let the Lord revive his work upon the heart, let him bestow a gracious renewing, let him drop the unction of his Spirit, let the rain and dew of his grace fall, let him manifest himself with life and power; then the whole scene changes. It is like spring after a dreary winter; it is like the outpouring of the rain from heaven after a long season of drought, "You renew the face of the earth." There is a blessed change when the Lord himself is pleased to appear in the soul. Then it begins to live.

 

And this life will manifest itself in various ways. While we are dead, prayer is a burden; when we have life, prayer is our very breath. When we are dead, the very thoughts of God are grievous; when we are alive, the thoughts of God are sweet and pleasant. When we are dead, our affections cleave to the things of time and sense; when we are alive, our affections mount upward. When we are dead, the world is our home, though it is but a miserable one; when we are alive, we are looking upward to heaven as the home of the soul when time shall be no more.

Psalm 119:176

"I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant; for I do not forget your commandments." Ps 119:176

 

If the Lord did not seek us, we would never seek the Lord. That is most certain. If you are one that seeks the Lord in prayer, in supplication, in secret desire, with many a heart-rending groan, and often by night and by day, be well assured, that you would never have sought the Lord, had not the Lord first sought you. He is now seeking you. It may be (as you fear), some time before he finds you; but he will find you at last.

 

How sweetly the Lord has set this forth in the parable of the lost sheep! The poor sheep has gone astray; and having once left the fold, it is pretty sure to have got into some strange place or other. It has fallen down a rock, or has rolled into a ditch, or is hidden beneath a bush, or has crept into a cave, or is lying in some deep, distant ravine, where none but an experienced eye and hand can find it out. Just so with the Lord's lost sheep; they get into strange places. They fall off rocks, slip into holes, hide among the bushes, and sometimes creep off to die in caverns.

 

When the literal sheep has gone astray, the shepherd goes after it to find it. Here he sees a footmark, there a little lock of wool torn off by the thorns. Every nook he searches; into every corner he looks, until at last he finds the poor sheep wearied, torn, and half expiring, with scarcely strength enough to groan forth its misery. He does not beat it home, nor thrust the goad into its back; but he gently takes it up, lays it upon his shoulder, and brings it home rejoicing. Similar in grace are the Lord's ways with his lost sheep. Men act otherwise. Let a pharisee see a sheep cast, as it is called in the country, that is, lying helpless upon its back, he would soon kick it up and kick it home, beat its head with his crook, or drive the sharp nail into its flank.

 

David's was a wise prayer, "Let me fall into the hands of God, and not into the hands of man." O to fall into the hands of God; into the hands of a merciful and compassionate High Priest, who was tempted in all points, like as we are, and can therefore sympathize with his poor tempted people! These, these are the only hands for us safely to fall into; and he that falls into these hands will neither fall out of them, nor through them, for "underneath are the everlasting arms," and these can neither be sundered nor broken.

Psalm 123:1

"Unto you lift I up my eyes, O you that dwell in the heavens." Ps 123:1

 

O how simple, suitable, complete, and blessed a remedy is this for all our distresses, when the Lord is pleased to open our eyes, and fix them on himself. He must do it all. If the eyes are to be upon him, he must first give us eyes; if lifted upon him, he must raise them upwards; if kept upon him, he must hold them waking. It is good to be in this spot.

 

There are times and seasons, perhaps, when we seem to have no religion whatever; when we look, and look, and look, and cannot find a grain. Where is our spirituality? where our heavenly affections? where our prayerfulness of spirit? where our tenderness of conscience? where our godly fear? where our meditations upon God's word? We look, and look, and look—they seem gone. Now, perhaps, in the midst of this uncertainty we are brought into some painful exercise, some affliction, some temptation, some apprehension, something that lies with weight and power upon the soul. Now is the time we need our religion.

 

But it is gone, it is gone, leaving us empty, needy, naked, and bare; religion, as regards its blessedness and comfort, we seem to have none. This is emptying work; this is stripping the soul as it were to the very bone. But what a preparation to receive the religion which is from above! How the vessel must be emptied of the dirty water of creature religion, well rinsed, and washed out, to have the pure water of heavenly religion communicated from the divine fountain. God never mingles the pure stream of heavenly religion with the dirty, filthy water of our own creature religion. We must be emptied of every drop, so to speak, of our natural religion, to have the holy and spiritual religion, which is from above, poured into the soul.

 

But to look, and look, and look, and find nothing but emptiness, nakedness, barrenness, and destitution—to have a "great company" of enemies all coming against us, and we as weak as water—what an emptying for divine filling, what a stripping for divine clothing, and what a bringing down of SELF for the raising up of Christ. True religion consists mainly in two points—to be emptied, stripped, made naked and bare; and then to be clothed and filled out of Christ's fullness.

Psalm 130:7

"Let Israel hope in the Lord—for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption." — Ps 130:7

 

"Let Israel hope in the Lord." Has she ceased to hope in the creature? Does she despair of salvation from any other source or quarter but the blood of the Lamb? Is she crying, sighing, longing, panting, and begging of the Lord to appear in her soul? "Let Israel," then, "hope in the Lord—for with the Lord there is mercy." He will not spurn his waiting Israel from his feet; he will not smite her with the lightnings of his wrath; he will show mercy to the poor, guilty sinner that comes with dust upon his head, clothed with sackcloth and ashes, mourning and lamenting his vileness before the Lord. There is no wrath in the bosom of the Lord against him; there is mercy, pardoning mercy in the bosom of Jehovah for Israel; therefore "let Israel hope in the Lord."

 

If Israel looks to herself, she cannot have one grain of hope; if she looks to the law, she cannot have one ray of expectation; or if she looks to an arm of flesh, none can do her good. But if Israel looks "to the hills from whence comes her help"—to God the Father, in his electing love—to God the Son, in his redeeming blood—to God the Spirit, in his sanctifying work; if Israel is thus enabled to anchor within the veil, thus to "hope in the Lord," her hope shall not be cut off, shall not be disappointed; it shall not be as "the hope of the hypocrite," a spider's web, that the first gust of eternal displeasure shall forever sweep away.

Psalm 132:15

"I will satisfy her poor with bread." Ps 132:15

 

What a sweetness there is in the word "satisfy!" The world cannot satisfy the child of God. Have we not tried, some of us perhaps for many years, to get some satisfaction from it? But can wife or husband "satisfy" us? Can children or relatives "satisfy" us? Can all the world calls good or great "satisfy" us? Can the pleasures of sin "satisfy" us? Is there not in all an aching void? Do we not reap dissatisfaction and disappointment from everything that is of the creature, and of the flesh? Do we not find that there is little else but sorrow to be reaped from everything in this world? I am sure I find, and have found for some years, that there is little else to be gathered from the world but disappointment, dissatisfaction, "vanity and vexation of spirit." The poor soul looks round upon the world and the creature, upon all the occupations, amusements and relations of life, and finds all one melancholy harvest, so that all it reaps is sorrow, perplexity, and dissatisfaction. Now when a man is brought here, to want satisfaction, something to make him happy, something to fill up the aching void, something to bind up broken bones, bleeding wounds, and leprous sores, and after he has looked at everything, at doctrines, opinions, notions, speculations, forms, rites and ceremonies in religion, at the world with all its charms, and at self with all its varied workings, and found nothing but bitterness of spirit, vexation and trouble in them all, and thus sinks down a miserable wretch, why, then when the Lord opens up to him something of the bread of life, he finds a satisfaction in that which he never could gain from any other quarter. And that is the reason why the Lord so afflicts his people; why some carry about with them such weak, suffering tabernacles, why some have so many family troubles, why others are so deeply steeped in poverty, why others have such rebellious children, and why others are so exercised with spiritual sorrows that they scarcely know what will be the end. It is all for one purpose, to make them miserable out of Christ, dissatisfied except with gospel food; to render them so wretched and uncomfortable that God alone can make them happy, and alone can speak consolation to their troubled minds.

Psalm 138:2

"For you have magnified your word above all your name." Ps 138:2

 

This is one of those expressions in Scripture that seem so comprehensive, and yet so amazing. To my mind it is one of the most remarkable expressions in the whole book of God. "You have magnified your word above all your name." The name of God includes all the perfections of God; everything that God is, and that God is revealed as possessing. His justice, majesty, holiness, greatness, and glory, and whatever he is in himself; that is God's name. And yet he has magnified something above all his name; his word, his truth. This may refer to the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, who is called the Word. "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one" (1Jo 5:7). "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God" (Joh 1:1). You may take the words either as meaning that God has magnified his Word—his eternal Son—above all his great name, that is, he has set Jesus on high above all the other perfections of his majesty, or take it as meaning his written word, which is contained in the sacred Scriptures. He has magnified it above all his name in the fulfillment of it; God's faithfulness being so dear to him, that he has exalted it above all his other perfections. He would sooner allow them all to come to nothing, than for his faithfulness to fail. He has so magnified his faithfulness, that his love, his mercy, his grace would all sooner fail, than his faithfulness; the word of his mouth, and what he has revealed in the Scriptures.

 

What a firm salvation, then, is ours, which rests upon his word, when God has magnified that word above all his name! What a comprehensive declaration is this! What volumes of blessedness and truth are contained therein! So that, if God has revealed his truth to your soul, and given you faith to anchor in the word of promise, sooner than that should fail, he would suffer the loss of all—for he has magnified his word above all his name.

Psalm 139:23

"Search me, O God, and know my heart—try me, and know my thoughts—and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Ps 139:23-24

 

The people of God cannot take their religion upon credit; they cannot be satisfied with the endorsement of this or that good man. They must have it wrought by God himself. They are often exercised as to whence their religion came. Do you not find it so, and that it costs you many exercises? If, for instance, you are cast down, you are exercised whether it springs from godly sorrow for sin. If you are comforted, you cannot take the comfort for granted; you must have it weighed up in the gospel balance. If you meet with providential deliverances, you cannot take them as so many certain evidences that all is right with your soul. So that every step you take you have to examine, and weigh it whether it be of God.

 

The dead professors, the hypocrites in Zion never have their religion tried and weighed up in this way. They know nothing of these inward exercises. They take things for granted; they nestle under some good man's wing, or get their religion endorsed by some minister, and are satisfied.

 

But the people of God must have testimonies from the Lord himself; and they will often be sharply exercised whether they have that work in their souls which will stand in the trying hour. And if in answer to their cries the Lord is pleased to shine into their souls, and raise up clear tokens that it is from heaven, it fills their hearts with gratitude, sinks the things of time and sense, and lifts up their affections to that blessed fountain whence these testimonies came down. Thus those very things which seem against them are for them, and they derive their sweetest consolations out of their heaviest afflictions. They would not change their trying path, with all its bitter things, for the smooth flowery path in which they see thousands walk, knowing that a religion without trials and temptations will only lead the soul down into a never-ending hell.

 

Thus at times they can feel good spring out of their exercises, and would rather be all their days a tempted, tried people, and bear those things which God inflicts, than walk in a path which seems right in the eyes of a man, and at the end find eternal destruction. They would rather have those chastisements which prove they are children and not bastards, than walk in a flesh-pleasing way of which the end is eternal damnation.

Psalm 141:8

"But my eyes are unto you, O God the Lord—in you is my trust; leave not my soul destitute." Ps 141:8

 

The very cry is a pledge that the Lord will not leave the soul destitute. Strange though it be to us; it is the light that shows darkness; it is life that makes us feel deadness; no, more, it is fertility and fruitfulness that make us feel barrenness; it is riches that make us feel poverty; it is God's teaching and presence that make us feel destitution. This very mourning over our barrenness; this very feeling of our inability to do good, is a proof of the life of God in the soul, an evidence of the work of grace in the heart.

 

"Leave not my soul destitute." This is something genuine; this is heart-work; these are the footsteps of the flock; these are the leadings and teachings of God the Spirit in the hearts of the redeemed. These things are saving; these things will lead the soul to eternal glory. And he that knows any of these things by personal experience will one day see the glory of the Lord face to face.

 

What do we, then, know of these things? Can we lay our experience side by side with this experience of the Psalmist, and say, "My eyes are unto you, O God the Lord; in you is my trust; leave not my soul destitute?" Wherever that prayer is, it will bring an answer; and wherever that answer is, there will be matter for everlasting praise. Blessed are the souls that know these things from genuine heartfelt experience. They will shine forth as stars forever and ever; and when the Lord of life and glory comes a second time without sin unto salvation, then shall they also appear with him in glory.

Psalm 145:15

"The eyes of all wait upon you; and you give them their food in due season." Ps 145:15

 

The Lord will bring all his children sooner or later, each in their measure, to "wait upon him." Whatever trouble they are in, "the eyes of all wait upon you;" whatever temptations they have to pass through, "the eyes of all wait upon you;" whatever difficulty in temporal things, whatever conflict in spiritual things, whatever hardship in providence, whatever exercise in grace be their lot, the Lord will bring all his children at one time or another into this experience, "the eyes of all wait upon you." "Wait upon you" for deliverance; "wait upon you" for a manifestation; "wait upon you" for the lifting up the light of your countenance; "wait upon you" for one soft word spoken by your mouth to the soul; "wait upon you" for one smile of your approving countenance; "wait upon you" for one testimony of your everlasting favor.

 

And he that knows not what it is to "wait upon God" in this manner, wait upon him by night and by day as the Lord works it in him, wait upon him on his bed, wait upon him behind his counter, wait upon him in the solitary fields, wait upon him in the crowded streets—he lacks that evidence, he lacks that divine feature, which the Holy Spirit has stamped here upon all the living family.

 

"And you give them their food in due season." There is "food," then, that they are waiting upon God for, to receive at his hands. And it is called "their food." It belongs to them. All the elect of God have provision laid up for them in Christ; for "it has pleased the Father, that in him should all fullness dwell." "I will abundantly bless her provision" (Ps 132:15). Though none of God's quickened family ever dare to claim the blessing at God's hands, yet the Lord has so stored up blessings in Christ, that they are actually and eternally theirs; for, as the Apostle says, "all things are yours." It is "their food" then; that is, the food specially to the elect. Blood shed for their sins, and for their sins only; righteousness brought in for them, and for them only; love bestowed upon them, and upon them only; promises revealed for their comfort, and for their comfort only; an eternal inheritance, "incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for them," and for them only. It is "their food," because it is theirs in Christ, being lodged in Christ for their benefit.

 

But it is theirs in another sense; and that is, they are the only people who hunger after it, who have an appetite for it, who have a mouth to feed upon it, who have a stomach to digest it. They are the only people whose eyes are really open to see what "food" is. Others feed upon shadows; they know nothing of the savory food of the gospel. As the Lord said to his disciples, "I have food to eat which you know not of." His food was the hidden communications of God's love, the visitations of his Father's presence, the divine communion that he enjoyed with his Father while the disciples were gone away, "to do the will of him that sent him, and to finish his work."

 

So, for the children of God, there is food in Christ; and this food the Lord gives them a hunger after. He not only sets before their eyes what the food is, but he kindles inexpressible longings in their soul to be fed therewith. God's people cannot feed upon husks, nor upon ashes, nor upon chaff, nor upon the east wind, nor upon grapes of gall and the bitter clusters of Gomorrah (De 32:32). They must have "food," "savory food such as their soul loves," that which God himself communicates, and which his hand alone can bring down, and give unto them, so that they may receive it from him as their soul-satisfying portion.

Psalm 145:16

"You open your hand, and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Ps 145:16

 

That word has been sweet to me sometimes, "Every living thing." How comprehensive it is! And how low it descends! How it comes down to the weakest and lowest and least of God's family, if he is only "a thing," only "a living thing!" if he cannot see himself "a man in Christ;" no, nor see himself a child of God; no, nor see himself a new-born babe! If he cannot see in himself the features of a child even, yet to be "a living thing!"

 

Now, perhaps, if you cannot trace the features of a grown-up man as stamped upon you, and are exercised with distressing doubts whether your experience even amounts to the new-born babe, you may yet come in here, as being "a living thing," a nondescript; a sort of person that cannot make yourself out, having an experience which you think nobody can fathom, having exercises which nobody else seems to be harassed with, and walking in a path where no other child of God seems ever to have walked before you.

 

Did not one say of old, (and have not you and I echoed his words?) he was "as a beast before you;" not a man, for "surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man" (Pr 30:2), but possessed of life still, breathing after God still, with that in the soul which cannot rest satisfied short of the manifestation and the presence of God.

 

But here is the mark of the "living thing"—the desire—"You satisfy the desire of every living thing," not natural desires; not "the desire of the sluggard, which has nothing," that is, nothing spiritual in the desire, or in the answer; but the spiritual desires that the Holy Spirit himself has kindled, desires after God, "as the deer pants after the water brooks," desires to know Christ by some sweet revelation of his glory, desires to be brought to the foot of the cross, and to have his image stamped upon our soul, desires to be led into the length and breadth and depth and height of that love of his which passes knowledge, desires to walk before God accepted in the Beloved, desires to feel that in our souls which shall sweetly satisfy us that we are eternally His.

 

This "living thing," though a nondescript in his own feelings, has that which marks the existence of life in him; and that is, living desires towards the living God, breathing affections after Jesus, a restless, dissatisfied heart, discontented with the things of time and sense, feeling no pleasure in what the world presents, and sighing to the Lord for the discoveries of his grace and his love.

Proverbs 3:20

"By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew." Pr 3:20

 

When the Lord said, "Let there be light," instantly there was light. So when the Lord says, "Let the heart open," the heart immediately opens, the conscience is made tender, and the soul hears and receives what God speaks. And what follows this opening? The heart receives the dews and showers of God's grace that fall into it; and these dews and showers of God's grace communicate to it softness, fertility, and productiveness. O how we have to learn this by painful experience! Is not our heart as hard sometimes as the nether millstone; and also our feelings, utterly destitute of light, life and power, without one grain of brokenness, contrition, godly sorrow, spiritual desire, or fervent breathing after the Lord? This painful experience the Lord's people have to pass through perpetually, that they may know that "in them, that is, in their flesh dwells no good thing," and that" power belongs unto God."

 

Could I make my own heart soft, would I need the Lord to do it for me? Could I communicate fertility to my own soul, would I ever pant after the dews and showers of the Holy Spirit? Could I bring pardon and peace into my own conscience, would I need the Lord himself to speak with power? Could I believe, hope, rejoice, and have at my own command every gracious and blessed feeling that I desire to experience, there would be no pleading the Lord's own promises, no wrestling in importunate prayer, no taking the kingdom of God by violence, no longing and panting for the Lord to appear in our souls.

 

The Lord therefore sees fit that we should walk in these paths, that we may know, "it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy."

Proverbs 8:20

"I lead in the way of righteousness." — Pr 8:20

 

How does the Lord Jesus—who speaks here under the name of Wisdom—lead his saints "in the way of righteousness?" By casting a mysterious light into their souls, whereby they see what the word of God has revealed, and shedding abroad a mysterious power in their hearts, whereby faith is created, to receive, lay hold of, and credit that which God has made known.

 

We may read the word of God forever in vain, unless that word is made life and light to our souls; but when the Lord the Spirit, whose covenant office and work it is to take of the things of Jesus and reveal them to the heart, sheds a mysterious and blessed light upon those Scriptures which speak of Jesus as the law-fulfiller, as having brought in a glorious righteousness, and at the same moment is pleased to raise up faith and power in the heart to receive, credit, embrace, and handle what he has thus revealed, then by his own persuasive power he leads the soul "in the way of righteousness." And O what a wonderful way it is! that God should ever find out such a way, as to make all his people righteous, by imputing to them another's righteousness! It will be the wonder, the song of saints through all eternity; it will exhaust all the depths of their finite wisdom to look into these secrets of wisdom, love, and power.

Yes, the angels themselves, who so far exceed men in wisdom, are represented as "desiring to look into" these things, and therefore when the ark was made, and the mercy seat put over the tables which were inclosed therein, the seraphim were framed as looking down upon this golden mercy seat, representing how the height, breadth, length, and depth of these mysteries overpass even the faculties of the angels themselves.

"I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment; that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance." Pr 8:20-21 

Whence springs it, that God causes his people "to inherit substance," by "leading them in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment?" When he leads them first into the way of righteousness by opening up his holy law, it drives away all shadows. We had been heaping together, with great toil, chaff and hay and straw and stubble; we had been like the man spoken of in Scripture, who "dreamed, and behold! he ate, but he awoke and his soul was empty;" so we were dreaming our life away continually with shadows, with a name to live, with a formal religion, with a mere external show of godliness, content with a few ordinances and sermons, and thinking that these would shelter us in the day of wrath.

 

These were only shadows; of no more avail to deliver our souls from the wrath to come, than the shadowy form of a mountain in the morning sun. But when the Lord began "to lead us in the way of righteousness," these shadows vanished. Something was then needed to conciliate the favor of God; something was needed, whereby the soul could escape those piercing eyes that looked it through and through; and the soul began to look after "substance," needed realities, needed a voice within from the Lord himself, a testimony of his eternal favor, and a manifestation of his love. There was "substance" needed.

 

The soul began to "hunger and thirst after righteousness," to pant and long after the manifestation of Jesus' love, and to be restless and discontented and weary of everything short of the work and witness of the Holy Spirit. When the "mouth is stopped, and the soul has become guilty before God," it wants pardon, peace, mercy, blood, and love; nothing else can satisfy it, and after this it pants with unutterable longings.

 

And when Jesus leads his people "in the way of righteousness" by showing to them his glorious righteousness, they begin to "inherit the substance" after which they were panting. There is no substance under the law—it is but a preparing the soul to receive substance; it is emptying the soul that it may be filled; it is stripping the soul that it may be clothed; it is wounding the soul that it may be healed; bringing down the soul that it may be lifted up. But when he "leads in the way of righteousness," that wonderful way whereby the soul is justified by his imputed righteousness, he causes that soul to "inherit substance," to inherit it even now upon earth, to have a taste of it, the beginnings of it, the pledge of it, and the firstfruits of it.

 

Oh! what a dreamy, shadowy thing is a mere profession of religion! And what a delusive cheat is all the pleasure to be gained by sin! How it leaves a soul naked and bare, wounded, stripped, and guilty before God! We have often promised ourselves pleasure in sin; and what have we found? The wormwood and the gall. All the anticipated pleasure vanished; and its flight left us full of guilt and shame.  

But if ever God indulged our souls with sweet communion with him, if ever he brought our affections to center in himself, if ever he melted our souls at his feet, if ever he blessed us with the communications of his eternal favor and distinguishing love, there was substance in that, there was weight, there was power, there was the foretaste and pledge of a never-ending eternity.

Proverbs 10:21

"Fools die for lack of wisdom." Pr 10:21

 

There is such a connection between true wisdom, which is "a knowledge of the holy" (Pr 30:3), and the fear of the Lord; and such a connection between ignorance of the Lord and sin, that saved saints are called "wise," and lost sinners are called "fools," not only in the Old Testament, as continually in the Proverbs, but in the New. Many of the Lord's people look with suspicion upon knowledge, from not seeing clearly the vast distinction between the spiritual, experimental knowledge for which we are now contending, and what is called "head knowledge." They see that a man may have a well-furnished head and a graceless heart, that he may understand "all mysteries and all knowledge," and yet be "nothing" (1Co 13:2); and as some of these all-knowing professors are the basest characters that can infest the churches of truth, those who really fear the Lord stand not only in doubt of them, but of all the knowledge possessed by them. But put it in a different form; ask the people of God whether there is not such a divine reality, such a heavenly blessing, as being "taught of God" (Joh 6:45); having "an unction from the Holy One, whereby we know all things" (1Jo 2:20)—knowing the truth for oneself, and finding it makes free (Joh 8:32); whether there is not a "counting of all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord," and a stretching forth of the desires of the soul to "know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings;" whether there is not "a knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins" (Lu 1:77); "a knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2Co 4:6); a being "filled with the knowledge of his will" (Col 1:9); an "increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col 1:10); "a growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2Pe 3:18);—ask the living family of God whether there be not such a knowledge as this, and if this knowledge is not the very pith and marrow, the very sum and substance of vital godliness, and they will with one voice say, "It is!"

Proverbs 12:27

"The substance of a diligent man is precious." — Pr 12:27

 

If the Lord has done anything for our souls by his Spirit and grace, and given us anything to taste, handle, realize, and enjoy for ourselves, we know there is a substance and reality in the things that we believe. Religion is our chief employment; our daily meditation or exercise—the main concern of our thoughts and what lies with the greatest weight upon our minds. And justly so; for it is our all. If we have religion, the religion of God's giving, it will be uppermost in our heart.

 

It is true we are surrounded with and often hampered by a body of sin and death; we have many worldly cares and anxieties which will intrude upon our minds; and those engaged in business have many things especially to drag them down from heaven to earth. Still, religion will be for the most part uppermost in a man's soul, where God has begun and is carrying on a gracious work. Not but what he is often very cold and dead, lifeless in his prayers, and unfeeling in his affections; not but what he may be carried away by the things of time and sense and dragged down into darkness, carnality, and lethargy; but with it all, there is something in his bosom that struggles upward—there is that in his heart which goes after the precious things of Christ, and the solemn realities of eternity.

Proverbs 14:16

"A wise man fears the Lord, and departs from evil—but the fool rages, and is confident."—Pr 14:16

 

I believe no true Christian can be satisfied with a notional religion—though a miserable backslider, and driven into the fields to feed swine, he cannot feed on their husks, but sighs after the bread of his Father's house. The eyes being enlightened to see the nature of sin, the justice and holiness of God, and the miserable filthiness of self, the quickened soul can find no rest in anything short of a precious discovery of the Lamb of God; and the more that the soul is exercised with trials, difficulties, temptations, doubts, and besetments of various kinds, the more does it feel its need of that blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

 

What is a Christian worth without inward trials and afflictions? How dead and lifeless are our prayers; how cold and formal when the soul is not kept alive by inward exercises! Where are the sighs, cries, groanings, wrestlings, and breathings of a soul that is at ease in Zion? The world is everything and Christ nothing, when we become settled on our lees, and are not emptied from vessel to vessel; but inward exercises, fears, straits, and temptations stir up the soul to cry, and pray, and beg for mercy. The certainty, the power, the reality of eternal things are then felt—when guilt, and wrath, and fear, and disquietude lay hold of the soul.

 

Mere notions alone of Christ, false hope, a dead faith, a presumptuous confidence, a rotten assurance, are all swept away as so many refuges of lies, when the soul is made to feel its nakedness and nothingness, its guilt and helplessness before God. And thus all these inward exercises pave the way for discoveries of Christ—those views of his blood and righteousness, that experimental acquaintance with his Person, love, grace, and work, which is life and peace.

 

Proverbs 15:6

"In the house of the righteous is much treasure—but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble." Pr 15:6

 

How different is the estimate that faith makes of riches, honors, and comforts from that made by the world and the flesh! The world has no idea of riches but such as consist in gold and silver, in houses, lands, or other tangible property; no thought of honor, but such as man has to bestow; and no notion of comfort, except in "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." But the soul that is anointed by an "unction from the Holy One," takes a different estimate of these matters, and feels that the only true riches are those of God's grace in the heart, that the only real honor is that which comes from God, and that the only solid comfort is that which is imparted by the Holy Spirit to a broken and contrite spirit. Now, just in proportion as we have the Spirit of God, shall we take faith's estimate of riches, honor, and comfort; and just so much as we are imbued with the spirit of the world, shall we take the world's estimate of these things.

 

When the eye of the world looked on the Apostles, it viewed them as a company of poor ignorant men, a set of wild enthusiasts, that traveled about the country preaching concerning one Jesus, who, they said, had been crucified, and was risen from the dead. The natural eye saw no beauty, no power, no glory in the truths they brought forth; nor did it see that the poor perishing tabernacles of these outcast men contained in them a heavenly treasure; and that they would one day shine as the stars forever and ever, while those who despised their word would sink into endless woe. The spirit of the world, and the views that the flesh takes are not altered now. Nature ever remains the same, and can never understand or love the things of eternity; it can only look to, and can only rest upon, the poor perishing things of time and sense.

 

By this test, therefore, we may in a measure try our state. What, for instance, are our daily and hourly feelings about the things of time and sense, and what about the things of eternity? Which of the two press with more power on our minds, which occupy more of our thoughts, which are laid up more warmly in our affections? And just in proportion as the solemn things of eternity, or the things of time and sense, occupy our mind; just so much as our hearts are fixed upon heaven or earth; just so much as we are living to God, or to ourselves, in the same degree is the strength of our faith, and the depth of the work of grace upon our conscience.

Proverbs 16:6

"By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." — Pr 16:6

 

There is a very close and intimate connection between godly fear and being holy in all manner of life. When do we drop into levity of conversation? When do light and frothy words fall from our lips? When do any of those hasty bursts of temper, or those fretful expressions, or that mere carnal, worldly talk to which we are naturally prone, hover upon our lips and break forth, more or less unguardedly, from our tongue? Is it not when this godly fear is not flowing its streams as a fountain of life, to well water the soul and soften it into humility and love, and is not springing up in wholesome checks and godly admonitions to keep the tongue as with a bridle and to rule that little member which, though so little, if untamed, defiles the whole body?

 

But if this godly fear be in exercise, it will restrain that levity of speech which not only grieves and wounds our own conscience, but is often a stumbling-block to the world, a bad example to the family of God, and a weapon in the hands of Satan to bring death into their soul. We should do well to ponder over those words of the Apostle, and to carry them with us when we are brought into conversation with others in the daily walks of life—"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Eph 4:29-30)

Proverbs 16:15

"In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favor is as a cloud of the latter rain." Pr 16:15

 

What is religion without a living faith in, and a living love to the Lord Jesus Christ? How dull and dragging, how dry and heavy, what a burden to the mind, and a weariness to the flesh, is a 'round of forms' where the heart is not engaged and the affections not drawn forth! Reading, hearing, praying, meditation, conversation with the saints of God, what cold, what heartless work where Jesus is not! But let him appear, let his presence and grace be felt, and his blessed Spirit move upon the heart, then there is a holy sweetness, a sacred blessedness in the worship of God and in communion with the Lord Jesus that makes, while it lasts, a little heaven on earth.

 

It is this inward sense of the blessedness of his presence and the misery of his absence, the heaven of his smile and the hell of his frown, that makes the sheep of Christ seek communion with him. He has won their heart to himself by discovering to them his beauty and his love, and they having once seen the glory of his Person, heard the sweetness of his voice, and tasted the grace of his lips, follow him wherever he goes, seeking to know him and the power of his resurrection, and counting all things rubbish and loss that they may win him, and have some manifestation of his love.

 

What is to support the soul under those trials and temptations that at times press it so sore, relieve those cruel doubts which so disquiet, take away those fears of death which so alarm, subdue that rebelliousness which so condemns, wean from the world which so allures, and make it look beyond life and time, the cares of the passing hour, and the events of the fleeting day, to a solemn and blessed eternity, but those visitations of the blessed Lord to the soul which give it communion with himself? Thus were the saints of God led and taught in days of old, as the Holy Spirit has recorded their experience in the word of truth. Remembering the past, one says, "Your visitation has preserved my spirit." Longing for a renewal, another cries, "O when will you come unto me?" and under the enjoyment of his presence the Church speaks, "He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love."

Proverbs 16:32

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city." Pr 16:32

 

What a foe to one's peace is one's own spirit! And what shall I call it? It is often an infernal spirit. Why? Because it bears the mark of Satan upon it. The pride of our spirit, the presumption of our spirit, the hypocrisy of our spirit, the intense selfishness of our spirit are often hidden from us. This wily devil, SELF, can wear such masks and assume such forms; this serpent, SELF, can so creep and crawl, can so twist and turn, and can disguise itself under such false appearances, that it is hidden often from ourselves.

 

Who is the greatest enemy we have to fear? We all have our enemies. But who is our greatest enemy? He that you carry in your own bosom; your daily, hourly, and momently companion, that entwines himself in nearly every thought of your heart; that suggests well near every motive; that sometimes puffs up with pride, sometimes inflames with lust, sometimes inflates with presumption, and sometimes works under feigned humility and fleshly holiness.

 

Now this SELF must be overcome; for if SELF overcomes us eventually, we shall perish in the condemnation of SELF. God is determined to stain the pride of human glory. He will never let self, (which is but another word for the creature,) wear the crown of victory. It must be crucified, denied, and mortified; it must be put off, so that Jesus may be put on; that in the denying of SELF, Jesus may be believed in; and that in the crucifixion of SELF, there may be a solemn spiritual union with Him who was crucified on Calvary.

 

Now, are we overcoming SELF? Are we buffeted? What says SELF? "Buffet back." Are we despised? What says SELF? "Despise back; retort angry look for angry look, and hasty word, for hasty word; an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But what says the Spirit of God in a tender conscience? "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."

 

The way to overcome self is by looking out of self to Him who was crucified upon Calvary's tree; to receive his image into our heart; to be clothed with his likeness; to drink into his spirit; and "receive out of his fullness grace for grace."

Proverbs 17:17

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Pr 17:17

 

If I may use the expression, we do not need a dead, but a living Jesus; not an absent, but a present Jesus; not a once, but a now Jesus; we need a friend at the right hand of God at the present moment; an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and yet pitiful and loving Mediator between God and us; an interceding High Priest, Surety, and Representative in our nature in the courts of heaven, who can show mercy and compassion to us now upon earth—"Whose heart is made of tenderness, Whose affections melt with love."

 

Our needs make us feel this. Our sins and sorrows give us perpetual errands to the throne. This valley of tears is ever before our eyes, and thorns and briars are perpetually springing up in it, that rend and tear our flesh. We need a real friend. Have you not sometimes tossed to and fro upon your weary couch, and almost cried aloud, "O that I had a friend!" You may have received cruel blows from one whom you regarded as a real friend; but you have been cruelly deceived. You feel now you have no one to take care of you or love you, and whom you can love again; and your heart sighs for a friend who shall be a friend indeed. The widow, the orphan, the friendless, the deserted one, all keenly and deeply feel this. But if grace has touched your heart, you feel that though all men forsake you, there is the Friend of sinners, a Brother born for adversity, a Friend who loves at all times, who will never leave or forsake you.

 

But we need this friend to be almighty, for no other can suit our case—he must be a divine Friend. For who but God can see us wherever we are? What but a divine eye can read our thoughts? What but a divine ear can hear our petitions? And what but a divine hand can stretch itself forth and deliver? Thus the Deity of Christ is no dry, barren speculation, no mere Bible truth, but an experience wrought powerfully into a believer's inmost soul. Happy soul! happy season! when you can say with the Church, "This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem" (Song 5:16).

 

Thus the very needs of the soul instinctively teach us that a friend, to be a friend, must be a heavenly friend; that his heart and hand must be divine, or they are not the heart and hand for us. This Friend, whose bitterest reproach on earth that he "was the Friend of sinners," is his highest glory in heaven, is the blessed Jesus, our great High Priest in the courts above. We find him at times to be very merciful, very pitiful, and very compassionate. And I am sure that we need all the compassion of his loving breast; for we are continually in states of mind when nothing but his pure mercy can suit, when nothing but his rich and boundless compassion is adapted to our case.

Proverbs 19:20

"Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter end." Pr 19:20

 

What lessons we need day by day to teach us anything aright, and how it is for the most part "line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." O what slow learners, what dull, forgetful scholars, what ignoramuses, what stupid blockheads, what stubborn pupils! Surely no scholar at a school, old or young, could learn so little of natural things as we seem to have learned of spiritual things after so many years instruction, so many chapters read, so many sermons heard, so many prayers put up, so much talking about religion. How small, how weak is the amount of growth compared with all we have read and heard and talked about.

 

But it is a mercy that the Lord saves whom he will save, and that we are saved by free grace, and free grace alone, through the blood and righteousness of the Son of God. "He of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption;" so that if we have him we have everything, and if we have him not we have nothing. Where these things are felt they will cause exercise of soul, with many prayers and supplications to the God of all our mercies; and all this will strip and empty us of that light, superficial, and flimsy profession which seems so current in our day.

Proverbs 19:21

"There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." Pr 19:21

 

A man in his fleshly mind is generally devising some method or other whereby he may escape a practical subjection to the gospel; some way or other whereby he may escape walking in the path of self-denial and mortification of the flesh, and the crucifixion of "the old man with the affections and lusts." He is generally seeking some way or other to indulge the flesh, and yet, at the same time, to stand in gospel liberty—to have everything that can gratify his carnal mind, and, at the same time, have a well-grounded hope of eternal life.

 

But the Lord says, "No, these two things are not compatible; he that shall live with Christ must die with Christ; he that shall reign with Christ must suffer with Christ; he that shall wear the crown must carry the cross." So, that whatever devices there be in a man's heart, or whatever ways and plans he shall undertake to bring his devices to pass, "the counsel of the Lord still shall stand." Divine sovereignty shall fulfill that which divine sovereignty has appointed, and the purposes of God shall stand upon the ruins of the purposes of the creature.

 

And it is our mercy (so far as we are children of the living God), it is our mercy, that it should be so. Where would we have been this moment, if the devices in our hearts had succeeded? We would have been in hell. Where would we have been, since the Lord has been pleased, as we trust, to quicken our souls into spiritual life, if all our devices had succeeded? Our "eyes would have stood out with fatness," and we would have "had more than heart could wish." We would have been now, if the Lord had left us to our own devices, indulging in some dreadful temptation, or already have disgraced our name before the Church of God; or, if we had escaped that, we would have only a name to live, while our hearts were secretly dead before God; have had "a form of godliness, while we inwardly or outwardly denied the power thereof."

 

And therefore it is our mercy that the devices of our hearts should not stand, but that "the counsel of the Lord" should prevail over all the purposes of our base nature. When a man is brought to the right spot, and is in a right mind to trace out the Lord's dealings with him from the first, he sees it was a kind hand which "blasted his gourds and laid them low;" it was a kind hand that swept away his worldly prospects, which reduced him to natural as well as to spiritual poverty, which led him into exercises, trials, sorrows, griefs, and tribulations; because, in those trials he has found the Lord, more or less, experimentally precious. Jacob found it so; he blessed the Lord for the path he had led him in. Though his days had been few and evil, he could see how the Lord had "fed him all his life long unto that day," amid all the changing vicissitudes through which he had passed in body and soul; and he blessed that hand which had guided him through that difficult way, and yet brought him to a "city of habitation."

Proverbs 20:24

"A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?"—Pr 20:24

 

Does not your heart sometimes quake with fear lest you have nothing but a nominal profession, lest the god of this world is blinding you, and lest your conscience be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin? It is good to have such fears. He who fears not, who has no solemn apprehensions, no anxious inquiries, who is never exercised with some internal trepidation of soul, it is much to be feared has never known what it is to have "the candle of the Lord searching the inward parts of the belly."

 

But if God has quickened your soul into spiritual life, and you have ears to hear, I would just put two questions to you—Have you obtained righteousness by a manifestation of Christ's righteousness; pardon by the application of Christ's blood; love by a shedding abroad of love; deliverance by a discovery of God's outstretched hand? My other question is this—If you have not, and let conscience bear its honest testimony—if you have never experienced righteousness, pardon, love, and deliverance, is there a cry in your soul after them? Is there anything like fervent supplication that God would bestow them? Is there anything of a groan in the depth of your spirit that the Lord would reveal them? These are marks of life; and he that has these marks will have the blessing, because God has quickened him into spiritual life. It may be long delayed, but it will come at last; "it will surely come, it will not tarry." It may be withheld for wise purposes, and you may have to travel through many a dark season and many an anxious hour, but deliverance is sure; it is reserved for you in Christ, and you are reserved for it, kept by God himself unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

Proverbs 22:3

"A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished." Pr 22:3

 

Noah, warned of God, prepared an ark to the saving of his household. Lot, admonished by the angels, fled out of Sodom. So there is a fleeing from the wrath to come. How careless, how secure, and unconcerned are we until quickened with spiritual life! Solomon speaks of those who sleep on the top of a mast, where one jerk of the wave, or one turn of the sleeper may precipitate him into the foaming ocean. God's anger is gathering against a wicked world. Who will escape this fearful storm of eternal, unmitigated wrath? Those who flee to Jesus. Who flee to Jesus? Those only who feel their need of him. How are they made to feel their need of him? By the flashes of God's anger. Whence issue these flashes? Out of the thunder-cloud of God's holy law—the revelation which he has made of his anger against transgressors. How necessary then to feel the application of the law to the conscience, to experience what Job calls, "the terrors of God," that Jesus Christ, who is a "covert from the tempest," may be seen and fled unto! It is like the warning given in Egypt of the grievous hail—"He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses—and he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field" (Ex 9:20-21). Faith credits what unbelief derides. As is their nature and operation, so is their end. Faith ends in salvation; unbelief in perdition.

Proverbs 22:15

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." Pr 22:15

 

We profess to believe in an Almighty, All-present, All-seeing God; and we would be highly offended if a person said to us, "You do not believe that God sees everything, that he is everywhere present, that he is an Almighty Jehovah;" we would almost think that he was taking us for an atheist. And yet practical atheists we daily prove ourselves to be. For instance, we profess to believe that God sees everything, and yet we are plotting and planning as though he saw nothing. We profess to know that God can do everything, and yet we are always cutting out schemes, and carving out contrivances, as though he were like the gods of the heathen, looking on and taking no notice. We profess to believe that God is everywhere present to relieve every difficulty and bring his people out of every trial, and yet when we get into the difficulty and into the trial, we speak, think, and act as though there were no such omnipresent God, who knows the circumstances of the case, and can stretch forth his hand to bring us out of it.

 

Thus the Lord is obliged, (to speak with all reverence,) to thrust us into trials and afflictions, because we are such blind fools, that we cannot learn what a God we have to deal with, until we come experimentally into those spots of difficulty and trial, out of which none but such a God can deliver us.

 

This, then, is one reason why the Lord often plunges his people so deeply into a sense of sin; it is to show them what a wonderful salvation from the guilt, filth, and power of sin there is in the Person, blood, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the same reason, also, they walk in such scenes of temptation; it is in order to show them what a wonder-working God he is in bringing them out.

 

This, also, is the reason why many of them are so harassed and plagued; it is that they may not live and act as though there were no God to go to, no Almighty Friend to consult, no kind Jesus to rest their weary heads upon; it is in order to teach them experimentally and inwardly those lessons of grace and truth which they never would know until the Lord, as it were, thus compels them to learn, and actually forces them to believe what they profess to believe.

 

Such pains is he obliged to take with us; such poor scholars, such dull creatures we are. In order, then, to teach us what a God he is, what a merciful and compassionate High Priest; in order to open up the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths of his love, he is compelled to treat, at times, his people very roughly, and handle them very sharply; he is obliged to make very great use of his rod, because he sees that "foolishness is so bound up in the hearts" of his children that nothing but the repeated "rod of correction will ever drive it far from them."

Proverbs 23:17

"Be in the fear of the Lord all the day long. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off." Pr 23:17-18

 

The Lord is here addressing himself to a soul laboring under temptation, and passing through peculiar exercises; and this is the exhortation that he gives it—"Be in the fear of the Lord all the day long;" watching his hand, submitting to his will, committing everything into his care and keeping; not hardening your heart against him, but looking up to him, and worshiping him with godly fear; "there is surely a future hope for you."

 

You may be tempted, exercised, and surrounded with difficulties, and see no outlet; but "there is surely a future hope for you;" and, when the end comes, it will make all plain and clear. This quiet submission, this watching and waiting, a man can never be brought to unless he has seen an end to all creature perfection; an end of his own strength, wisdom, and righteousness. To sit still is the hardest thing a man can do. To lie passive at God's footstool when all things seem to be against us; to have a rough path to walk in, to be surrounded with difficulties, and yet to be in the fear of the Lord all the day long, watching his hand, desiring to submit to his will, seeking only that wisdom which comes from above, and trusting that he will make the way straight; not putting our hand to the work, but leaving it all to the Lord—how strange, how mysterious a path!

 

And yet it is the only one that brings solid peace to a Christian; "there is surely a future hope for you." Whatever sorrows and troubles a man may have to wade through, there will surely be an end of them. If we try to get ourselves out of perplexities, we are like a person trying to unravel a tangled skein of silk by pulling it forcibly; the more it is pulled, the more entangled it gets, and the faster the knots become. So if we are plunged into any trial, providential or spiritual, and we attempt to extricate ourselves by main force, by kicking and rebelling, we only get more entangled.

 

The Lord, then, to encourage us to wait patiently upon him until he shall appear, says, "there is surely a future hope for you." This is the universal testimony of the Scripture, that the Lord appears and delivers, when there is no other to help; and the experience of the saints agrees with the testimony of the written word—"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."

Proverbs 27:7

"The full soul loaths an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet." Pr 27:7

 

Afflictions, trials, and sorrows are very bitter things. And they must needs be bitter, for God never meant that they should be otherwise. When he takes the rod, it is to make it felt; and when he brings trouble on his children, it is that they may smart under it. Our text therefore does not, I believe, mean that the "bitter thing" is sweet when it is taken, for then it would cease to be bitter; but it is sweet on account of the blessed nourishment that is brought to the soul out of it.

 

I remember reading, many years ago, the travels of Franklin to the North Pole; and a very interesting book it is naturally. But there is one incident mentioned in it which just strikes my mind. In wandering over the snows of the polar regions there was no food to be gotten for weeks, except a lichen or kind of moss that grew upon the rocks, and that was so exceedingly bitter, (something like "Iceland moss,") that it could only be taken with the greatest disgust; and yet upon that Franklin and his companions lived. They had no alternative; they must either eat that or die. But that bitter moss became sweet after it had passed their palates; for it had a nutriment in it which kept their bodies alive.

 

And thus many of God's people, who have endured the most dreadful trials, have afterwards found nutriment to spring out of them. What bitter things are God's reproofs and rebukes in the conscience! And yet who would be without them? I appeal to you who fear God, whether you would deliberately choose never to experience marks of divine disapprobation, and never feel the frowns of God's anger at any time when you go wrong? I believe in my conscience that you whose hearts are tender in God's fear would say, "Lord, let me have your frowns; for if I have not your frowns and a conscience to feel them, what sins would I not recklessly plunge into? Where would not my wicked nature carry me, if I had not your solemn reproofs!" These very rebukes then become sweet, not in themselves, nor at the time, but because of the solid profit that comes out of them.

Proverbs 31:6

"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts." —Pr 31:6

 

The wise mother of king Lemuel gave her son gracious directions when she spoke these words. It is when we begin to feel the misery into which we have been cast by sin, and thus become ready to perish, and of heavy hearts, that the pure wine of gospel grace is suitable to our lost condition. As the holiness and justice of God are discovered to the conscience, and we are made to see and feel the depths of the Adam fall, we look out of ourselves for a salvation which we could not find in our fallen nature or in our deeply corrupt and unbelieving heart.

 

When, then, we obtain by living faith a view of the Son of God as a Mediator between God and men, when we see by the eye of faith the blood of the cross, and the full and complete atonement which he, as the Lamb of God, made for sin, then we heartily embrace him as "of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1Co 1:30). We see and feel that there is salvation in him and in no other (Ac 4:12); and as this salvation is seen to be worthy of God and suitable to us, as it answers all the demands of God's holy law, and glorifies it by rendering it an obedience as far excelling ours as heaven excels earth, and God surpasses man; we embrace it as our justifying righteousness and covering robe, from the eyes of him who, out of Christ, is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29).

Ecclesiastes 3:3

"A time to kill, and a time to heal." Ec 3:3

 

All through the Christian's life there will be "a time to kill, and a time to heal." We sometimes read in books, and hear in conversation, an experience of this kind—a work of grace commencing with very powerful convictions of sin, and the soul brought almost to the very brink of hell, and then a wonderful revelation of Jesus Christ, a powerful application of his atoning blood to the conscience, and a blessed manifestation of God's love to the soul. And then what follows? They possess an unwavering assurance during the remainder of their sojourn upon earth. Sin and Satan never distress nor wound them; the flesh lies calm and tranquil, like the summer sea, never lashed up by angry gusts into a storm of fretfulness and rebellion; the sea birds of doubt and fear never flit with screams around them, as harbingers of a tempest, but the gale of divine favor gently fills their sail, and wafts them along until they reach the harbor of endless rest.

 

Is this consistent with the Scriptures of truth? Does not the word of God set forth the path of a Christian as one of trial and temptation? Can a living soul pass through many scenes without ever being killed experimentally in his feelings as one of "the flock of slaughter?" Does not a chequered experience run through the whole of a Christian's life? Does the Scripture ever afford us the least warrant to believe that a man can be walking in the footsteps of a tempted, suffering Lord, who continues for months and years together at ease in Zion, without any trouble, exercise, grief, or distress in his soul? David never was there. Jeremiah never was there. Paul never was there. Heman never was there. Asaph never was there. You will find that no saints of God, whose experience is left on record in the Bible, ever were there; but their path was one of change and vicissitude; sometimes down, sometimes up, sometimes mourning, sometimes rejoicing, but never long together in one unvaried spot.

 

The Spirit of the Lord, in carrying on this grand work in the hearts of God's people, will be continually operating in two distinct ways upon their souls. Jeremiah was a prophet of the Lord, and he was "set over the nations and over the kingdoms to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down"—thus ran one part of his commission "to build and to plant"—that was the second part of his office. These two distinct operations were to run through the whole of his mission; they were "the burden of the Lord," laid upon him at his first call to the prophetical office, and they continued during the whole of his ministry, a space of more than forty years. Did he, then, merely on one occasion pull down, and on one occasion build up? Was not the whole of his ministration, as evidenced in the prophecies that are contained in the book that bears his name, a continual pulling down with one hand, and building up with the other? So is it then with the ministry of the Spirit of the Lord in a vessel of mercy. He is continually killing, continually healing, continually casting down, continually raising up, now laying the soul low in the dust of self-abasement, and now building it up sweetly in Christ.

Ecclesiastes 3:4

"A time to weep." Ec 3:4

 

Does a man only WEEP once in his life? Does not the time of weeping run, more or less, through a Christian's whole life? Does not mourning run parallel with his existence in this tabernacle of clay? for "man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards." Then "a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up" must run parallel with a Christian's life, just as much as "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." Living souls will know many times to weep; they will have often to sigh and cry over their base hearts; to mourn with tears of godly sorrow their backslidings from God; to weep over their broken idols, faded hopes, and marred prospects; to weep at having so grieved the Spirit of God by their disobedience, carnality, and worldliness; to be melted into contrition at the feet of a dying Lord, so as in some measure to be led into the path in which Jesus walked as "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." They will have to bewail the falling off of those friends whom once they looked upon as bidding fairer for the kingdom of God than themselves; to weep at the cruel arrows of calumny which are shot against them by professors; to mourn over the low state of Zion, how few there are who really serve the Lord acceptably with reverence and godly fear, and adorn the doctrine in all things.

 

But above all things will they have to weep over the inward idolatries of their filthy nature; to weep that they ever should have treated with such insult that God whom they desire to love and adore; that they should so neglect and turn their backs upon that Savior who crowns them with loving-kindness and tender mercies; and that they bear so little in mind the instruction that has been communicated to them by the Holy Spirit.

 

There is many a weeping time for God's children; and if there be one frame of mind in soul experience more to be coveted than another, it is to be weeping at Jesus' feet. We have two sweet instances of the Lord's manifesting himself to those who were weeping—one to "the woman who was an immoral sinner," who stood behind him, and washed his feet with her tears; the other was to Mary Magdalene, who "stood outside the sepulcher weeping."

 

Oh, how different is the weeping, chastened spirit of a living soul from the hardened, seared presumption of a proud professor! How different are the feelings of a broken-hearted child of God from the lightness, the frivolity, the emptiness, and the worldliness of hundreds who stand in a profession of religion! How different is a mourning saint, weeping in his solitary corner over his base backslidings, from a reckless professor who justifies himself in every action, who thinks sin a light thing, and who, however inconsistently he acts, never feels conscience wounded thereby! "Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

Ecclesiastes 7:8

"Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof." Ec 7:8

 

Thus says the wise man, and it is often true in natural things, but invariably so in divine. Rarely at first can we foresee what will be the outcome of any matter which we take in hand. We may begin it with much hope, and find in the end those hopes sadly disappointed. We may begin it with much fear, and find from the event those fears utterly groundless. Whatever we take in hand it is very rare that our expectations are fully carried out, for we have again and again to learn that "man's heart devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps," and that there are many devices in a man's heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that and that only, shall stand.

 

But so far as we are among the family of God, and as such are under especial guidance and divine teaching and leading, whether our first expectations are accomplished or not, the end stamps wisdom and goodness upon all the dealings of God with us both in providence and in grace. However chequered his path has been; however, as Job speaks, his purposes have been broken off, even the thoughts of his heart; however when he looked for good, then evil came unto him, and when he waited for light there came darkness; whatever bitter things God seemed to write against him when he made him to possess the sins of his youth, yet sooner or later every child of God will be able to say, "O how great is your goodness which you have laid up for those who fear you!" and this will embolden him to add, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, as they have already followed me, all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

 

Philpot

Ecclesiastes 12:7

"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was—and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Ec 12:7

 

Nature shrinks from death, even apart from that which following after death, makes it to so many a king of terrors. Even where grace has set up its throne, and mercy rejoices over judgment, many unbelieving, infidel thoughts at times will cross the mind and perplex the judgment about the separation of body and soul, and the launching of the spirit into an unseen, unknown world. Faith, it is true, can subdue these perplexing thoughts, better hinted at than described, but faith needs some solid ground on which to build and rest. If, then, the soul is blessed with any assured hope or sweet persuasion of saving interest in the blood and obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ, so as to remove guilty fears, how strengthening to faith is a view of his death, not merely as the only sacrifice for sin, but as the exemplar, so to speak, of our own.

 

We shall all have to die, and therefore to look by faith at the death of Jesus may be a profitable subject of meditation as a relief against the perplexing thoughts to which we have before alluded. Into his Father's hands the dying Lord commended his spirit. The Father received it, for him the Father hears always (Joh 11:42); and thus his spirit returned unto him who gave it. Thus, by the act of dying, the soul and body of the blessed Redeemer were, for a time, fully and actually separated—as fully and actually as ours will also be at death. But follow by faith that soul of Jesus when he breathed it forth, and view it at once and immediately entering paradise, into the blissful presence of God. What food for faith is here! How strengthening, how encouraging to a believing heart which has often been perplexed by such thoughts as we have named, to view the soul of Jesus thus passing at once into paradise.

 

And may we not, by faith, view the soul also of the believing malefactor, when the time of release was come, winging its flight into the same paradise where the soul of Jesus had preceded it? If we know anything painfully and experimentally of the assaults of unbelief, the arrows of infidelity, and the fiery darts of the wicked one, and how they are all quenched by the shield of faith, we have found that faith, in order to stand firm, must have the word of truth, a "Thus says the Lord," upon which to rest. Let us now, then, see how this stands as connected with the death of the blessed Lord. Fortified by his holy example, if blessed with faith in his Person, blood, and righteousness, the dying believer may commend his spirit into the hands of Christ as did martyred Stephen, in the same confidence that the Lord Jesus commended his spirit into the hands of his heavenly Father.

Song of Solomon 1:4

"Draw me; we will run after you! Let the king bring me into his chambers." Song 1:4

 

How many of us can take the words of the bride into our lips, or have ever been able at any one time of our life to use such an expression? We must have had some sight and sense of the preciousness and loveliness of Jesus before ever we can cry, "Draw me," from the depth of a sincere heart. For the sincere soul is afraid to approach the holy Jehovah, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and insult him with mock petitions and words that it does not feel. But if ever that desire has been kindled, and that prayer raised up in your soul, "Draw me, we will run after you," it must have been the work of the Holy Spirit in your hearts, to raise up those feelings and to give you a living faith in the Son of God.

 

And "he that believes shall be saved." Whatever doubts, whatever fears, whatever temptations, whatever exercises beset the path, "he that believes shall be saved." He that has had given him one grain of spiritual faith in Christ's glorious person, who has had one sight of his atoning blood, one sip of divine love shed abroad in his heart, is sure to go to glory; he is saved with an everlasting salvation, in his covenant Head. The Lord that has kindled these strong desires after himself in his soul, will surely fulfill them. As we find he did in the case of the bride; he said to her, after a little time, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away."

Song of Solomon 1:7

"Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you feed, where you make your flock to rest at noon—for why should I be as one that turns aside by the flocks of your companions? If you know not, O fairest among women, go your way by the footsteps of the flock, and feed your young goats beside the shepherds' tents." — Song 1:7-8

 

If you say that you want food and rest, to know Christ for yourself and to enjoy his presence and love, the Lord gives you two directions to attain to the enjoyment of these two blessings—

 

1. to tread in the footsteps of the flock, to walk in the way in which the saints of old have walked, in the path of tribulation and faith;

 

2. if you are favored in any way to live within reach of the shepherds' tents, and have the privilege of hearing the gospel preached in its purity and power, to bring your young goats in your arms beside the tent, and to put them down to feed on the juicy herbage. And be assured that if you come to the shepherds' tents with a prayerful spirit and a hungry soul, begging of God to open your heart to receive the word with power, and to crown it with his blessing, sooner or later you will find food and rest.

 

But these things go together. If you want food you will go where it is to be obtained; if you want rest you will go where it is to be obtained. You will get neither in the world. But as you get food and rest beside the shepherds' tents you will find that it is really and truly Jesus himself who feeds, and Jesus himself who makes you lie down and rest. The shepherds are but servants. Christ is the Bridegroom, and he alone has the Bride. The shepherds' joy is to bring the sheep to Christ that they may find food and rest in him; and as your heart receives the joyful sound, and you feel the power of God's truth in your soul, there will be a doing what Christ bids as well as enjoying what Christ reveals.

Song of Solomon 2:14

"O my dove, in the clefts of the rock." Song 2:14

 

Jesus is the hiding-place, the only hiding-place from sin and self. "You are my hiding-place," said David of old. This was shown to Moses, in figure, when the Lord put him into the cleft of a rock, which Toplady has so beautifully versified, to paint the longing desires of his soul—

 

"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee!"

 

It is on this "Rock of Ages" that God has built his Church. As a rock, he is deep as well as high—so deep as to have under-bottomed the depths of the fall, so high as to be God's fellow, seated at his right hand. As a rock, also, he is broad as well as long—broad enough to bear millions of living stones built on him, and long enough to reach from eternity to eternity. The Apostle, therefore, prays that the Church at Ephesus may comprehend with all saints, "what is the breadth and length, and depth and height, and know the love of Christ which passes knowledge."

Song of Solomon 4:16

"Awake, O north wind; and come south wind; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits." Song 4:16

 

We are, most of us, so fettered down by the chains of time and sense, the cares of life and daily business, the weakness of our earthly frame, the distracting claims of a family, and the miserable carnality and sensuality of our fallen nature, that we live at best a poor, dragging, dying life.

 

We can take no pleasure in the world, nor mix with a good conscience in its pursuits and amusements; we are many of us poor, moping, dejected creatures, from a variety of trials and afflictions; we have a daily cross and the continual plague of an evil heart; get little consolation from the family of God or the outward means of grace; know enough of ourselves to know that in SELF there is neither help nor hope, and never expect a smoother path, a better, wiser, holier heart, or to be able to do tomorrow what we cannot do today.

 

As then the weary man seeks rest, the hungry food, the thirsty drink, and the sick health, so do we stretch forth our hearts and arms that we may embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and sensibly realize union and communion with him. From him come both prayer and answer, both hunger and food, both desire and the tree of life. He discovers the evil and misery of sin that we may seek pardon in his bleeding wounds and pierced side; makes known to us our nakedness and shame, and, as such, our exposure to God's wrath, that we may hide ourselves under his justifying robe; puts gall and wormwood into the world's choicest draughts, that we may have no sweetness but in and from him; keeps us long fasting to endear a crumb, and long waiting to make a word precious.

 

He wants the whole heart, and will take no less; and as this we cannot give, he takes it to himself by ravishing it with one of his eyes, with one chain of his neck. If we love him, it is because he first loved us; and if we seek communion with him, it is because he will manifest himself to us as he does not unto the world.

 

Would we see what the Holy Spirit has revealed of the nature of this communion, we shall find it most clearly and experimentally unfolded in the Song of Solomon. From the first verse of that book, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth," to the last expressed desire of the loving bride, "Make haste, my beloved, and be like to a roe or to a young deer upon the mountains of spices," all is a "song of loves," all a divine revelation of the communion that is carried on upon earth between Christ and the Church. She "comes up from the wilderness leaning upon her beloved," while "his left hand is under her head, and his right hand does embrace her." She says, "Look not upon me, because I am black;" but he answers, "You are all beautiful, my love; there is no spot in you." At one moment she says, "By night, on my bed, I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but I found him not;" and then again she cries, "It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would no let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house and into the chamber of her that conceived me."

 

Comings and goings; sighs and songs; vain excuses and cutting self reflections; complaints of self, and praises of him; the breathings of love, and the flames of jealousy; the tender affections of a virgin heart, and the condescending embraces of a royal spouse;—such is the experience of the Christian, in seeking or enjoying communion with Christ as described in this divine book.

Song of Solomon 6:13

"What will you see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies." Song 6:13

 

Are you not often a mystery to yourself? Warm one moment, cold the next; abasing yourself one hour, exalting yourself the following; loving the world, full of it, steeped up to your lips in it today; crying, groaning, and sighing for a sweet manifestation of the love of God tomorrow; brought down to nothingness, covered with shame and confusion, on your knees before you leave your room; filled with pride and self-importance before you have got down stairs; despising the world, and willing to give it all up for one taste of the love of Jesus when in solitude; trying to grasp it with both hands when in business.

 

What a mystery are you! Touched by love, and stung with enmity; possessing a little wisdom, and a great deal of folly; earthly-minded, and yet having the affections in heaven; pressing forward, and lagging behind; full of sloth, and yet taking the kingdom with violence!

 

And thus the Spirit, by a process which we may feel but cannot adequately describe, leads us into the mystery of the two natures, that "company of two armies," perpetually struggling and striving against each other in the same bosom. So that one man cannot more differ from another than the same man differs from himself.

 

But do not nature, sense, and reason contradict this? Do not the wise and prudent deny this? "There must be a progressive advance," they say, "in holiness; there must be a gradual amendment of our nature until at length all sin is rooted out, and we become as perfect as Christ." But the mystery of the kingdom of heaven is this—that our carnal mind undergoes no alteration, but maintains a perpetual war with grace—and thus, the deeper we sink in self-abasement under a sense of our vileness, the higher we rise in a knowledge of Christ; and the blacker we are in our own view, the more lovely does Jesus appear.

Isaiah 2:11

"The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day." Isa 2:11

 

How does the Lord humble? By discovering to man what he is; by opening up the depth of his fall; by making him feel what a vile and guilty wretch he is before the footstool of mercy; by breaking him to pieces; by slaughtering and laying him low; by making him abhor himself in dust and ashes. Was not that the way the Lord took with the saints of old? How did he humble Isaiah? Was it not by some discovery of his divine Majesty, to make him cry, "I am a man of unclean lips!" How did he humble Daniel? Was it not by manifesting himself in his almighty purity, and turning Daniel's loveliness into corruption? How did he humble Hezekiah? By laying him upon a sick-bed, and laying his sins and iniquities with weight and power upon his conscience. None of these men produced humility in themselves. How did the Lord humble Job? By sifting him in Satan's sieve, and discovering as that riddle moved to and fro in Satan's hands the pride, peevishness, and self-righteousness of his carnal mind.

 

There are many who cannot bear to hear the malady touched upon. They cannot bear to hear the corruptions of the heart even hinted at. But what real humility can a man have except through a knowledge of himself? How can I be humbled except I feel that in myself which covers me with shame and confusion of face, and makes me loathe and abhor myself before the eyes of a heart-searching God? Therefore the more the glorious majesty of heaven is pleased to unfold itself in all its divine purity in my conscience, and the deeper discovery I have of what I am as a fallen wretch, a guilty sinner, the more will my heart be humbled, the more shall I be lowly and abased, the more shall I loathe myself in dust and ashes.

Isaiah 4:2

"In that day shall the Branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious." Isa 4:2

 

Where in heaven or on earth can there be found such a lovely Object as the Son of God? "What is your beloved more than another beloved?" ask the companions of the Bride. But she answers, "My beloved is white and ruddy, the chief among ten thousand." If, then, you have never seen any beauty in Jesus, you have never seen Jesus; he has never revealed himself to you; you never had a glimpse of his lovely face, nor a sense of his presence, nor a word from his lips, nor a touch from his hand. But if you have seen him by the eye of faith, and he has revealed himself to you even in a small measure, you have seen a beauty in him beyond all other beauties, for it is a holy beauty, a divine beauty, the beauty of his heavenly grace, the beauty of his uncreated and eternal glory, such as no earthly countenance can wear, nor man or woman, no, not Adam, in all his unfallen innocency, nor his fair partner Eve, with all her virtue, grace, and dignity, ever could show, for it is the beauty of the glorious Son of God, which he forever wears as the Son of the Father in truth and love.

 

And as he is "beautiful," so is he "glorious." Oh, what a glory does faith see sometimes in his eternal Deity, in his divine Sonship, in what he is in himself as the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his Person, and in what he is as made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption! How glorious does he show himself to be in his atoning blood and dying love. Even as sweating great drops of blood in Gethsemane's gloomy garden, and as hanging in torture and agony upon Calvary's cross, faith can see a beauty in the glorious Redeemer, even in the lowest depths of ignominy and shame. Was there not a glory in his meek obedience, in his suffering patience, in his submission to his Father's holy will, in his uncomplaining resignation to the heaviest strokes of vindictive justice, in bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, and thus putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself? But more especially does faith see him glorious as rising from the dead and going up on high, and sitting down at the right hand of the Father, crowned with glory and honor, and all things put under his feet.

 

"And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and lovely for those who are escaped of Israel." Isa 4:2

 

By "the fruit of the earth" we may understand that gracious and holy fruit which grew upon the Branch—and it seems to be called "the fruit of the earth," because it appeared on earth when our Lord was there. Thus not only all his words, works, and ways, all the parables, doctrines, precepts, and promises uttered by the mouth of the Son of God in the days of his flesh, but all the benefits and blessings that spring in the way of redemption out of his complex Person, and grow as it were a holy fruit out of him as the Branch, such as his atoning blood, his glorious righteousness, his dying love, his resurrection and ascension, and his power to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, may all be considered as "the fruit of the earth," because wrought by him in and upon the earth, and done in the days of his flesh when his gracious feet were upon this earthly ball.

 

This fruit is "excellent" to the escaped of Israel. There is seen in it to be a divine excellency. Therefore, there is not a shadow of a fault to be found with it. It is perfect in all its parts; complete to the very center, and therefore seen to be excellent, as so glorifying to God, and so adapted to every need and woe of those that are left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem.

 

And "lovely" too. In his sufferings, in his blood shedding, obedience, holy life and expiatory death, there is a surpassing loveliness, because in them shine forth a divine glory and a heavenly beauty. It is indeed the same word as is translated "beauty" in the holy garments made for Aaron by Moses (Ex 28:2), and clothed in which he ministered before the Lord when he went into the holy place. So our great High Priest now ministers within the veil in the holiness and beauty of his glorified humanity; and as this is seen and apprehended by faith, the Church sings, "I sat under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." "His glory is great in your salvation—honor and majesty have you laid upon him."

Isaiah 4:5

"And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night." Isa 4:5

 

There is an allusion here to the cloudy pillar which rested upon the tabernacle. It was as a cloud by day, but as a pillar of fire by night. The reason of this is evident. By day, the cloud and the smoke were sufficiently visible; but not so in the night season. In the night, therefore, it was a pillar of fire, that the presence of the Lord might be distinctly seen. Spiritually viewed, this night may signify dark seasons in the soul; for there is night as well as day in the experience of God's saints. Now when they are in these dark seasons, they need clearer and brighter manifestations of the Lord's presence than when they are walking in the light of day. Thus this "shining of a flaming fire by night" may represent the shining in of the Lord's clearer, fuller, and more manifested presence, the livelier and more powerful application of his word to the heart; the brighter evidences and clearer marks that he gives of his favor, which, compared with the cloud, are as the shining of a flaming fire. It is the same presence of God, and the same glory, as was the case with the cloudy pillar; but that presence and that glory are seen in a more conspicuous manner as giving light in seasons of darkness.

 

The shining of a flaming fire by night may also represent the shining light of the word of truth which is spoken of as "a light that shines in a dark place" (2Pe 1:19). How often when the mind is dark, and evidences obscured, there is little else seen but the clear shining of the word of truth to which the soul turns its eyes as its only guiding light. "Your word," says David, "is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." We often get into spots where we have to look outside of ourselves to the clear shining of truth in the word of God; for there is darkness everywhere else; and to that light we have to look and wait, and sometimes at a great distance and for a long season, until that word comes near and begins to shine into the heart.

 

But with that shining light, as it draws near and gives forth its comforting rays and beams, comes in due time the presence and glory of God. So to fix our heart upon the word of promise, and wait for its fulfillment, is to walk by faith and not by sight. Thus to Abraham the word of promise was by day a cloud; but when "a horror of great darkness fell upon him," the same word of promise, as the word of a covenant God, was as a burning lamp that passed between the pieces of the offered sacrifices (Ge 15:17).

  

"For upon all the glory shall be a defense." Isa 4:5

 

The glory of the Lord is his presence in the soul, for that is represented by the cloud, as it was when his glory filled the house of God, which Solomon built. Now this glory of the Lord in the cloud and smoke by day, and in the shining of a flaming fire by night, is to be a defense, both upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion and upon her assemblies. A defense against what? Chiefly against four things.

 

1. First, it is a defense against ERROR. No person can embrace error who knows anything of the presence and power of God in his soul, or has ever seen anything of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; for all error is opposed not only to God's truth, as revealed in the word, but to God's presence, as revealed in the heart. And this is true both as regards individuals and churches. God will never sanction error as held by either. He will never bless with his manifested presence any erroneous man, be he minister or private individual, for he never honors or blesses anything but his own truth, and those only who believe and hold it. "Those who honor me I will honor." This is a very important point, for you will often hear erroneous men speak as if they knew spiritual things by divine teaching and by divine testimony, and will often boast confidently of their comforts and enjoyments, as if they had gotten their views from God himself, though they turn the truth of God into a lie.

 

But be not deceived by these men or their false pretensions. They have only kindled a fire to compass themselves about with sparks, that they may walk in the light of their fire, and in the sparks which they have kindled. The Spirit of truth guides into all truth, and cannot and will not countenance or bless error. The Lord's own prayer to his heavenly Father for his disciples was, "Sanctify them through your truth—your word is truth." The soul never was divinely sanctified by a lie, nor the heart truly comforted by error.

 

2. But this glory will also be a defense against all EVIL; for nothing makes sin so to be seen and abhorred as sin as the presence of the Lord. He is known and felt at such moments to be infinitely pure and holy, and a holy God must needs hate sin. If, then, his presence be felt in the soul as a cloud in which he manifests his glory in the face of Jesus Christ, it will be a defense against all the sins in which you might be entangled, when there is no such sensible presence to make you revere and adore his great and glorious Majesty.

 

3. It is, therefore, also a defense against all TEMPTATIONS, which would lead us into anything contrary to God and godliness.

 

4. And it will be a defense too against all ENEMIES. You may have many enemies, both without and within; but all their attempts to injure you will be unsuccessful if you have the cloud of the Lord's presence in your soul, and his glory in your midst. No enemy can hurt you if the Lord is your defense. He will watch very jealously over what he himself has communicated by his Spirit and grace to your heart, and his presence will be your best defense against every foe and against every fear.

Isaiah 6:5

"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips—for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Isa 6:5

 

God has described his Zion as "full of wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores." When the Church of God fell in Adam, she fell with a crash which broke every bone and bruised her flesh with wounds which are ulcerated from top to toe. Her understanding, her conscience, and her affections were all fearfully maimed. Her understanding was blinded; her conscience stupified, and her affections alienated. Every mental faculty thus became perverted and distorted.

 

As in a ship-wrecked vessel the water runs in through every leak, so when Adam fell upon the lee-shore of sin and temptation, and made shipwreck of the image of God in which he was created, sin rushed into every faculty of body and soul, and penetrated into the inmost recesses of his being.

 

Or to use another figure; as when a man is bitten by a poisonous serpent, the venom courses through every artery and vein, and he dies a corrupted mass from head to foot, so did the poison fang of sin penetrate into Adam's inmost soul and body, and infect him with its venom from the sole to the crown.

 

But the fearful havoc which sin has made is never seen nor felt until the soul is quickened into spiritual life. Oh, what work does sin then make in the conscience, when it is opened up by the Spirit of God! Whatever superficial or shallow views we may have had of sin before, it is only as its desperate and malignant character is opened up by the Holy Spirit that it is really seen, felt, grieved under, and mourned over as indeed a most dreadful and fearful reality. It is this sword of the Spirit which cuts and wounds; it is this entrance of life and light that gashes the conscience; it is this divine work which lacerates the heart and inflicts those deep wounds which nothing but the "balm in Gilead" can heal.

 

And not only is a poor convinced sinner cut in his conscience, inwardly lacerated and gashed by sin as thus opened up by the Spirit of God, but, as the prophet speaks, "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint." He is thus laboring under a complication of diseases. Every thought, word, and action is polluted by sin. Every mental faculty is depraved. The will chooses evil; the affections cleave to earthly things; the memory, like a broken sieve, retains the bad and lets fall the good; the judgment, like a bribed or drunken juryman, pronounces heedless or wrong decisions; and the conscience, like an opium-eater, lies asleep and drugged in stupified silence.

 

This miserable state, brought upon us and into us by the fall, all the people of God must in some measure feel. It is of no use mincing the matter and saying that a person can be saved by the grace of God and the blood of Christ, without knowing anything of the depth of misery and wretchedness into which he is sunk as the fallen child of a fallen father. We must go down into the depths of the fall to know what our hearts are and what they are capable of; we must have the keen knife of God to cut deep gashes in our conscience and lay bare the evil that lies so deeply imbedded in our carnal mind, before we can enter into and experience the beauty and blessedness of salvation by grace.

Isaiah 7:14

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isa 7:14

 

The Deity of the Son of God shines all through the sacred page. It is the grand cardinal point, on which all the doctrines of grace turn; and he that is unsound there, is unsound everywhere. The Godhead of Christ does not rest upon a few texts of Scripture, but it shines all through the Scripture; it is the light of the Scripture, and it is the life of the Scripture. Take away the Deity of Jesus out of the Scripture, and you would do the same thing spiritually as though you blotted the sun out of the sky naturally; the sacred page would be one black darkness. But the Person of Jesus is not Deity only. No man can see God and live; we could not bear to look upon pure Deity. And therefore the Son of God has taken into union with himself our nature; he has "taken upon him the seed of Abraham"—that "holy One" who was begotten by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and there united to the second Person of the glorious Trinity, that Godhead and manhood might form one glorious Person, Immanuel, God with us.

 

Now to the eye of faith there is the greatest beauty and glory in Christ's humanity. The enlightened soul views Deity shining through the manhood; and when it sees Jesus "going about, doing good," when it hears the words that dropped from his gracious lips, when it views him by the eye of faith, bleeding, suffering, agonizing, and dying, it sees the Godhead in all these acts, upholding and shining through the manhood. And it is this union of the two natures in one glorious Person, that fills the heart that receives it in the faith of it and in the love of it with a measure of pure affection.

 

Here, then, the Church has a view of the glorious Person of Jesus; and she falls in love with him. There is something in supernatural beauty which kindles spiritual affection, as there is something in natural beauty which kindles natural affection. When the quickened soul sees supernatural beauty, it immediately falls in love with it. The spiritual affections center in spiritual beauty. And thus, when the redeemed and regenerated soul sees the glorious Person of Christ, God-man, Immanuel, God with us, and has a taste and sense of his love, the blessed Spirit thereby kindles in it spiritual affection, and attracts it with these "cords of love and bands of a man."

Isaiah 17:7

"At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel." — Isa 17:7

 

In the very name "the Holy One of Israel," there is something the sweetness of which melts the heart of a poor sinner. For what is he in himself as a fallen child of Adam? A filthy, defiled, polluted wretch, unfit for the presence of God. And what can fit such an unclean, unworthy, deformed sinner for the eternal presence and enjoyment of the Triune Jehovah, but such a Savior as the Holy One of Israel, whose blood, as a holy fountain, cleanses from all sin? The soul that stands in him, stands complete, without spot or blemish. And must not his heart leap and dance when with a measure of faith he is able to lay hold of this Holy One of Israel?

 

But this living faith in, and spiritual reception of, the only Mediator between God and man cannot exist until a man is brought into circumstances in which he needs the Holy One of Israel. Until he is emptied and stripped of all creature strength, he cannot truly understand how, nor really desire that the strength of Christ may be made perfect in his weakness. So with Christ's wisdom; his righteousness; his blood; so with his love; his gracious presence—all are mere words, loose and floating ideas, dim, dreamy conceptions, until poverty and need lie hard upon the soul, and the blessed Spirit makes known "the unsearchable riches of Christ," as so many experimental realities. It is this gracious discovery which endears to him the Holy One of Israel. There is no divine faith, no going out of hope, no flowing of affection toward the Holy One of Israel, until "that day," when he has no one else to look to, no hope in the creature; until all his righteousness fails him, and he feels that he must be saved by free grace, or eternally perish.

Isaiah 26:8

"The desire of our soul is to your Name, and to the remembrance of you." Isa 26:8

 

How sweet and expressive is the phrase, "The desire of our soul!" How it seems to carry our feelings with it! How it seems to describe the longings and utterings of a soul into which God has breathed the spirit of grace and mercy! "The desire of our soul,"—the breathing of our heart, the longing of our inmost being; the cry, the sigh, the panting of our new nature; the heavings, gaspings, lookings, longings, pantings, hungerings, thirstings, and ventings forth of the new man of grace—all are expressed in those sweet and blessed words, "The desire of our soul!" And what a mercy it is, that there should ever be in us "the desire" of a living soul; that though the righteous dealings of God are painful and severe, running contrary to everything nature loves; yet that with all these, there should be dropped into the heart that mercy, love, and grace, which draw forth the desire of the soul toward the Name of God.

 

This is expressed in the words that follow, "With my soul have I desired you in the night!" If you can say no more about the work of grace upon your heart than that—can you really use these words as descriptive of feelings experienced within, "With my soul have I desired you in the night?" Is your soul longing after the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it ever in the night season panting after the manifestation of his presence? hungering and thirsting after the dropping-in of some word from his lips, some sweet whisper of his love to your soul? These are marks of grace. The carnal, the unregenerate, the ungodly, have no such desires and feelings as these; there is nothing in their heart corresponding with "the desire of the soul" unto the Name of God. But it is the case with all the righteous; for "the desire of the righteous shall be satisfied."

Isaiah 27:3

"I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment—lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day."—Isa 27:3

 

The Lord Jesus Christ, who lives at God's right hand, has to send down supplies of his grace continually to keep your soul alive unto himself. Without this life being kept up and maintained by these continual supplies of his grace, you cannot pray, or read, or hear the word, or meditate with any feeling or profit. You cannot love the Lord and his blessed ways; you cannot submit to his righteous dealings; or hear the rod and him who appointed it. You may approach his throne, but your heart is cold, clouded, and unfeeling; your spirit sinks under the weight and burden of the trials and difficulties that are spread in your path; nor are you able to do anything that satisfies yourself, or that you think can satisfy God.

 

By these painful but profitable lessons, you are experimentally taught that you need the life of Christ as well as the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ as much as the crucifixion of Christ; Christ as an ever-living, ever-gracious, ever-glorious Mediator, to send down supplies of his love and power into your soul, as much as you needed him to die upon the cross for your redemption.

Isaiah 27:13

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come who were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem." Isa 27:13

 

Called by the sounding of the great trumpet, the perishing and outcasts "come." And what do they do when they come? Do they trifle with sin, mock God, and abuse his grace? We read not so. They "worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem." They worship him in spirit and in truth; they worship him in the beauty of holiness. With purified hearts, purged consciences, and spiritual affections, they fall down before him, and their souls are impressed with a sense of the greatness of his love. They had no such heavenly feelings before; they could not therefore worship the Three-One God in the holy mount nor at Jerusalem. The great trumpet had not been blown, the jubilee had not come, the chains had not been knocked off, the shackles not loosed, and the prison-gates not thrown open; they could not therefore worship God freely, fully and calmly, with liberty of access and freedom of spirit.

 

But where do they worship him? "In the holy mount." The holy mount we may understand to signify spiritually Mount Zion, the place where Jesus sits in glory. This is the ancient declaration of the Father, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." Here Jesus ever sits with love in his heart, grace in his lips, and the gospel in his hands. He sits on a holy hill, sways a holy scepter, and rules in the hearts of a holy people. Men talk much of holiness; and indeed they may well talk of it, for it is a most solemn declaration, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." But what sort of holiness are most men seeking after? A holiness of the flesh, a sanctity of the creature. They must do this and abstain from that; and if they do this and abstain from that, then they are holy. So many prayers must be said, so many chapters read, so many duties done. This is a Popish holiness, the sanctified austerity of a St. Dominic, not that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.

 

That is of a very different nature—different every way, in source, way, means, and end. The only true holiness is that which is produced by the Spirit of God in the soul. Other source or fountain there is none. And how does he produce it? By the law or the gospel? By the gospel, certainly. When the great trumpet of jubilee sounds in the soul, when it listens to the notes, and comes obedient to its call, it is to worship the Lord in his holy mount at Jerusalem. True holiness is then produced in the soul, for then there are given spiritual desires, spiritual affections, spiritual views, spiritual feelings, and spiritual hearts. This is the holiness which is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, and without which no man shall see the Lord.

Isaiah 28:17

"I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place." Isa 28:17

 

Wherever God the Holy Spirit begins and carries on a work of grace in the heart, he will weigh up, and mete out, from time to time, all a man's religion and test every inch of the way whether it lies straight and level with the word and will of God. Depend upon it the Lord who "weighs the spirits" (Pr 16:2), and by whom "actions are weighed" (1Sa 2:3), will put into his righteous and unerring scales both nature and grace, both human and divine teaching, and make us know which is full weight in heaven's court. The religion of the present day is too much to confuse everything of an experimental nature; to cover and obscure the work of grace in the heart.

 

But there can be no question that God will never allow our religion, if, indeed, he has mercifully taken us in hand, to be huddled up in this confused way; but he will measure it all by his standard, and refine it in his crucible. It is in this way that we learn the reality and genuineness of his work. Thus, if he gives faith, he will bring that faith to the touchstone, and prove it with heavy trials. It is in grace as in nature. When we would ascertain the exact weight of a thing, we put it into one scale, and a standard weight into the other, until the scales are even. So when the Lord puts faith in one scale, he puts a burden in the other to try whether it is standard weight.

 

And the greater the faith the heavier the trial. The father of the faithful had to slay his own son. If God communicates a measure of hope, there will be many things that cause despondency to be put into the opposite scale, that despondency and hope may be well balanced. If the love of God be shed abroad in the soul, there will be trials and temptations to prove it. Thus the child of God learns the meaning of the words—"The work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope" (1Th 1:3).

 

Every token for good, every sip of mercy, every manifestation of love is examined and searched into, weighed up and balanced in the court of conscience, to know whether it is full weight or not. And in this delicate and accurate scrutiny not only is religion weighed up, but also that which is not religion. Sins, open and secret, backslidings, idolatrous affections, covetous desires, presumptuous confidences, rotten hopes, and vain props—all are weighed up in the balances of the sanctuary. And as that which is received from God, when put into the balances, will be found sterling and genuine; so all that did not come from God, all that sprang from nature and the flesh, all vain confidence, bold claims, and presumptuous notions, when put into the scales, will have tekel stamped upon them—"Weighed in the balances, and found lacking."

Isaiah 32:2

"And a MAN shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest." — Isa 32:2

 

Who is this man? Need I ask the question? Is there not a response in every God-fearing breast? It is the man Christ Jesus—the man who is God's fellow. How blessed it is to have a scriptural and spiritual view of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, to see him not merely as God, truly essential God, one in essence, glory, and power with the Father and the blessed Spirit, but also man, made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted.

 

And what a suitability there is in the humanity of the Lord Jesus, when we view it in union with this glorious Deity! As man he suffered, as man he bled, as man he died, as man he stands a Mediator for his fellow men between God and man; as man, he has an affectionate, compassionate, sympathizing heart for human distress; as man, he obeyed the law in every particular; as man, he bore all the sufferings of humanity, and thus became the Brother born for adversity, flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone; yet perfectly pure, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and now exalted higher than the heavens.

 

But what beauty, grace, glory, and suitability do we see in the man Christ Jesus, until he is revealed to the soul by the blessed Spirit? None! It is the Spirit who takes the humanity of Christ Jesus and shows it to the eye of faith. And this humanity he shows not as mere humanity, but as in union with, though distinct from, his eternal Deity. O this blessed man!—this man of sorrows; this suffering, agonizing, crucified man. View him on the cross, bleeding for your sins; and then lift up your eyes and see him as the same man at the right hand of God. This was Stephen's dying sight just before he passed into his presence—"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (Ac 7:56).

Isaiah 33:2

"O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for you—be our arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble." Isa 33:2

 

Israel has often to pass through times of sorrow and trouble. Deep temporal and deep spiritual trouble is the allotted portion of many, if not of most of the people of God. But having found that the Lord is a Savior, and the only Savior who can support in trouble and deliver out of trouble, there is this conviction deeply implanted and firmly written upon their heart, that he is a Savior in the time of trouble. It is the purpose of God to hunt us out of all lying refuges, that we may believe in Jesus to the saving of our soul; that we may prove that he is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him; that we may learn what salvation is, and that we may know it for ourselves as a divine and blessed reality.

 

Thus though he is always a Savior, yet he is not experimentally a Savior in times of worldly ease, carnal prosperity, and seasons of carelessness. But in times of trouble, when none can do us any good or stretch forth a healing hand but the Lord alone, then to come to his gracious Majesty and find there and then how he can and does save in trouble and out of trouble, this is that which endears such a Savior to believing hearts.

 

And observe the expression, "time of trouble," and how it includes not only every trouble which may befall us temporally or spiritually, but clearly intimates that there is not a single season or time when trouble comes that the Lord is not able and willing to save us out of it. How well this corresponds with those gracious words and that sweet promise, "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

Isaiah 33:6

"The fear of the Lord is his treasure." Isa 33:6

 

"The fear of the Lord is his treasure." And, oh, what a treasure is this fear! Treasure in ancient times was generally hidden; it was concealed from the eye of man, hoarded up, and not brought out ostentatiously to view. Wealthy men of old hid the knowledge of their treasures, lest they should be robbed of them by the hand of violence. So spiritually, the fear of the Lord is hidden in the heart, and lies deep in the soul; it is not spread out ostentatiously to view, but is buried out of sight in a man's conscience. But though hidden from others, and sometimes even from ourselves, this "fear of the Lord" will act as circumstances draw it forth. There may be times and seasons when we seem almost hardened and conscience-seared; sin appears to have such power over us, and evil thoughts and desires so carry us away, that we cannot trace one atom of godly fear within; and the soul cries, "What will become of me! Where am I going now! What will come next on such a wretch as I feel myself to be!"

 

But place him in such circumstances, say, as befell Joseph, then he will find that the "fear of the Lord" is in him a fountain of life, a holy principle springing up in his soul. Thus, this fear, which is a part of the heavenly treasure, acts when most needed. And the more the life of God is felt in the soul, the more the fear of God flows forth as a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death. The more lively the grace of God is in the soul, the more lively will godly fear be in the heart; and the more the Spirit of God works with power in the conscience, the deeper will be the fear of God in the soul.

Isaiah 35:4

"Say to those who are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not." Isa 35:4

 

"Fear not." "Ah! but Lord," the soul says, "I do fear. I fear myself more than anybody. I fear my base, wicked heart, my strong lusts and passions, and my numerous inward enemies, the snares of Satan, and the temptations of the world. You say, 'Fear not.' But I do fear. I cannot help but fear." Still the Lord says, "Fear not." Let us see if we cannot find something to explain this a little more clearly.

 

There is a crowd yonder, and a weak woman in company with her husband. He says to her all trembling and fearing to pass through the crush, "Fear not; take hold of my arm, cling close to me." She takes hold of his arm and fears not. So with the timid soul and its enemies. It says, "How can I press through this crowd of difficulties; how elbow my way through these opposing doubts and fears?" Its husband, the Lord, comes and says, "Fear not; take hold of my strength; cleave close to me!" The soul hears, obeys, and clings; its enemies give way; its doubts and fears part asunder, and it passes safely through.

 

Or take another familiar comparison. Here is a child trembling before a large mastiff; but the father says, "Fear not, he will not hurt you, only keep close to me." "Deliver my soul," cried David, "from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog." Who is that dog but Satan, that huge mastiff, whose jaws are reeking with blood? If the Lord says, "Fear not," why need we fear him? He is a chained enemy. But how the timid soul needs these divine "Fear nots!" For without him, it is all weakness; with him, all strength; without him, all trembling; with him, all boldness. "Where the word of a king is there is power;" and this makes the Lord's "Fear nots" so efficacious. As Augustine used to say, "Give what you command, and command what you will." The burden still remains, but strength is given to bear it; the trials are not lessened, but power to endure them is increased; the evils of the heart are not removed, but grace is communicated to subdue them.

 

Say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; Behold, your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." Isa 35:4

 

"Behold, your God will come." The Lord then has not yet come; but he says he will come, and the promise of his coming takes away the fear. He says, "Behold." Even that little word contains something in it noteworthy. The Lord is in the distance; his chariot is making ready; for "he makes the clouds his chariot, and walks upon the wings of the wind." As the Lord said to his disciples, "Lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near," so by the word, "Behold," the Lord would take the eyes of his people from being ever bent on the ground or ever looking at their own miserable hearts and the difficulties and dangers of the way. "Look up," he would say, "look up; your God is coming to save you."

 

I like to dwell on every crumb as it were of our text. The jots and tittles of God's word, like diamond dust, are to be gathered up and treasured. In Scripture there is much in a little; not like our sermons, where there is often little in much. The word of God is full to overflowing with the very essence of concentrated truth. Look at the next crumb. Is it not the very quintessence of blessedness? "Your God." What, is he your God? That is the very dropping of everlasting love. In that one word is concentrated the essence of every blessing of the new covenant. And if God is your God, your doubts, fears, and misgivings do not break that sacred covenant tie.

 

You are a husband, and your partner is afflicted with some mental disease; and the nature of the complaint may be such that she hardly recognizes your face, altogether doubts your affection, and does not believe you are her husband at all. Such cases we know are frequent. But do her doubts or denial dissolve your love, do they cancel the marriage tie? The state of her mind, however painful, does not alter the marriage relationship. So if the Lord's espoused ones, through Satan's temptations, doubt their union with him, do their fears break the wedding ring or cancel the marriage writings? If covenant love matched them in eternity, and covenant grace joined their hands in time, they are still his Hephzibahs and Beulahs, for "the Lord hates putting away."

Isaiah 35:5

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped." — Isa 35:5

 

That these miracles are effected by the power of the gospel is plain from the words that immediately precede, "Behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you" (Isa 35:4). And how does God come and save but in the gospel, and by making it his own power unto salvation? If you look back at your experience you will see that one of the first effects of the power of the gospel upon your heart, was to open your ears to receive it as a message from God. When, for instance, you were first brought under its sound, and began to understand and feel what you heard, was there not given you, as it were, new ears to hear it, and a new heart to receive it? Were not those with you memorable days when you first heard the joyful sound of salvation by free grace; when it first dropped that blessed news into your soul which made your very heart thrill with unspeakable joy? God was then circumcising your ear, unstopping it, and conveying the gospel into your heart through it. "For faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Ro 10:17).

 

"As soon as they hear of me," says the Lord in prophecy, "they shall obey me—the strangers shall submit themselves unto me" (Ps 18:44). That gospel which was death to others was life to you; and that message at which others perhaps gnashed their teeth, came into your heart with an indescribable sweetness as the very voice of God to your soul.

Isaiah 38:16

"O Lord, by these things men live; and in all these things is the life of my spirit." Isa 38:16

 

When Hezekiah said, "By these things men live," he meant that by these trials and deliverances, by these sinkings and risings, strippings and clothings, emptyings and fillings, "by these things men," that is, spiritual men, "live." It is a mystery, but a great truth, that just in proportion as we die to the world, to self, to sense, to nature, and to false religion, the more the life of God is strengthened in our conscience. The Lord, perhaps, has taught some of you this truth through great afflictions. But when these trials came upon you at the first, it seemed as though they would entirely overwhelm you; they took away your standing, and it appeared as though they had destroyed your faith and hope.

 

But though these floods of temptation passed over the soul, they swept away nothing but rubbish, which until then was mistaken for the inward teachings of God the Spirit. So far then from these afflictions overwhelming your faith, you found that faith was secretly strengthened by the very flood that threatened at first to drown it. True faith is no more destroyed by sharp trials, than the oak is destroyed by cutting away the ivy, or by a storm blowing down some of its rotten branches. And thus, as the oak, the more the winds blow upon it, takes a firmer root in the soil; so the storms and tempests that blow upon the soul, only cause it to take a firmer hold of the truth, and to strike its fibers more deeply into the Person, love, work, and blood of Jesus. So that, "by these things men live," for through them, the life of God is maintained and kept up in the soul, the Holy Spirit secretly strengthening it by the very things that seemed to threaten it with destruction.

Isaiah 40:4

"Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low—and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain." Isa 40:4

 

If in your road heavenward, no valley ever sank before you; if no mountain and hill ever rose up in sight; if you encountered no crooked path through the dense woods; and no rough places, with many a rolling stone and many a thorny briar in the tangled forest, it would not seem that you were treading the way which the saints of God have ever trod, nor would it appear as if you needed special help from the sanctuary, or any peculiar power to be put forth for your help and deliverance. But being in this path, and that by God's own appointment, and finding right before your eyes valleys of deep depression which you cannot raise up; mountains and hills of difficulty that you cannot lay low; crooked things which you cannot straighten; and rough places which you cannot make smooth; you are compelled, from felt necessity, to look for help from above.

 

These perplexing difficulties, then, are the very things that make yours a case for the gospel, yours a state of mind to which salvation by grace is thoroughly adapted, yours the very condition of soul to which the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is altogether suitable. So that if you could at the present moment view these trials with spiritual eyes, and feel that they were all appointed by unerring wisdom and eternal love, and were designed for the good of your soul, you would rather bless God that your pathway was so cast in providence and grace that you had now a valley, now a mountain, now a crook, and now a thorn.

 

And even as regards the present experience of your soul, you would feel that these very difficulties in the road were all productive of so many errands to the throne—that they all called upon you, as with so many speaking voices, to beg of the Lord that he would manifest himself in love to your heart.

 

We all desire ease; we love a smooth path. We would like to be carried to heaven in a palanquin; to enjoy every comfort that earth can give or heart desire, and then, dying without a pang of body or mind, find ourselves safe in heaven. But that is not God's way. The word of truth, the sufferings of Christ, and the universal experience of the saints, all testify against the path of ease; all testify for the path of trial; they all proclaim, as with one united voice, "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,"—and this is the way of ease and of that prosperity which destroys fools (Pr 1:32); but "strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leads unto life,"—and this is the path of suffering and sorrow.

Isaiah 40:29

"To those who have no might he increases strength." — Isa 40:29

 

The Lord's people are often in this state, that they "have no might." All their power seems exhausted, and their strength completely drained away; sin appears to have gotten the mastery over them; and they feel as if they had neither will nor ability to run the race set before them, or persevere in the way of the Lord. Yet, even then, they have strength; for it says, "he increases strength." It does not say, 'he gives, bestows, communicates strength;' but "he increases strength." How can this be?

 

We must have power to feel our weakness. God must put forth his power to enable us to fall down into nothingness and helplessness. It therefore says, "he increases strength." As though it would imply, 'Is not the very power to sink down into creature weakness, helplessness, and nothingness, strength?' It is so in God's mysterious dealings. And, therefore, "to those who have no might" (in other words, those who are sensible in their own consciences that they have no power at all, who are completely exhausted of nature's strength and wisdom), to these "he increases strength."

Now the Lord "increases strength" in a very mysterious way. He often drops strength stilly and secretly into the soul. We are not always to expect very great manifestations. This is not the way in which the Lord usually increases strength. His visits to the soul are often better known by their fruits and effects, and by looking back upon them when they are past, than by any immediate impulse. The strength given is more easily felt than the hand seen which communicates it. In this respect it much resembles the new birth, of which the Lord says, "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, and where it goes" (Joh 3:8).

"He gives power to the faint." Isa 40:29

 

The Lord often gives his people power to take a longing, languishing look at the blood and righteousness of Jesus; to come to the Lord, as "mighty to save," with the same feelings with which Esther went into the presence of the king—"I will go in, and if I perish, I perish." It is with them sometimes as with the four lepers who sat at the entering in of the gate of Samaria—"And they said one to another, Why sit here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there—and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians—if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die" (2Ki 7:3-4). And so the Lord's people are sometimes brought to this state—"If I perish, I will perish at his footstool." If he gives no answer of mercy, they will still cling to his feet, and beseech him to look upon, and save them.

 

Now this is "power," real power. Despair would have laid hold upon their soul, if this secret power had not been given to them. Sometimes we learn this by painful experience. Our trials sometimes stun us, and then there is no power to seek or pray. But when power is given, there is a pleading with the Lord, a going out of the heart's desires after him, and a fulfillment in the soul of the experience described by the prophet, "I will wait upon the Lord, that hides his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him." 

God gives power also to believe; for it is the work of the blessed Spirit to raise up living faith in the heart. He gives power to hope; for it is only so far as he communicates power, that we can cast forth this anchor of the soul. He gives power to love; for it is only as he gives power, that we feel any measure of affection either to the Lord or to his people. In a word, every spiritual desire, every breath of fervent prayer, every movement of the soul heavenward, every trusting in God's name, relying on his word, and hanging upon his promises, spring out of power communicated by the Lord to the faint and feeble.

Isaiah 40:31

"But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." Isa 40:31

 

How different the religion of a living soul is from the religion of a dead professor! The religion of a dead professor begins in self, and ends in self; begins in his own wisdom, and ends in his own folly; begins in his own strength, and ends in his own weakness; begins in his own righteousness, and ends in his own damnation! There is in him never any going out of soul after God, no secret dealings with the Lord, no actings of faith upon the divine perfections.

 

But the child of God, though he is often faint, weary, and exhausted with many difficulties, burdens and sorrows; yet when the Lord does show himself, and renews his strength, he soars aloft, and never ceases to mount up on the wings of faith and love until he penetrates into the very sanctuary of the most High. A living soul never can be satisfied except in living union and communion with the Lord of life and glory. Everything short of that leaves it empty. All the things of time and sense leave a child of God unsatisfied. Nothing but vital union and communion with the Lord of life, to feel his presence, taste his love, enjoy his favor, see his glory—nothing but this will ever satisfy the desires of ransomed and regenerated souls. This the Lord indulges his people with.

"They shall renew their strength." They shall not be always lying groaning on the ground, not always swooning away through the wounds made by sin, not always chained down by the fetters of the world, not always hunted in their souls like a partridge upon the mountains. There shall be a renewal of their strength; and in their renewal, "they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

"They shall mount up with wings as eagles." Isa 40:31 

It is said of the eagle, that he mounts up towards the sun; and that of all birds, he is the only one which can gaze upon the sun with unshrinking eye. So with faith in the soul. The Lord's people alone can look by faith upon the "Sun of righteousness," gaze upon a glorious Immanuel at the right hand of the Father, and see a precious Jesus ever interceding for them, and drawing them near to his bosom. And when this blessed Jesus communicates a measure of his love and blood to their consciences, and raises up and draws forth faith in his name, then the soul begins to mount up with these wings like eagles, soaring higher and higher, until it comes into the presence of God; mounting up in higher and higher circles of spiritual flight, until it penetrates into the very sanctuary of Jehovah.

 

Now, has not your soul thus soared sometimes as upon eagle's wings? Have there not been those communications of divine life and light, those mountains of faith, those anchorings of hope, those goings forth of love, whereby your soul was enabled to mount up and find delight in Jesus, and felt his name, love, and blood precious? Have you not mounted up too, not only in the exercise of living faith and hope, but also of heavenly affection?  

Sometimes we are so fastened down to this earth, this valley of tears, this waste-howling wilderness; so chained down to it, that we are like a bird with a broken wing, and cannot mount. We are swallowed up in the world, forgetting God and godliness. But are there not times and seasons when the soul is delivered from these chains and fetters, when earthly cares drop off from the mind, when our wings are strong, and fresh pinions as it were given, when the world and its temptations, sin and its snares are left behind, and there is a sweet mounting up in the feelings of heavenly affection? This is to "mount up with wings as eagles," and the soaring soul never ceases to mount until it comes into the very presence of the Three-One God of Israel.

Isaiah 42:16

"I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." Isa 42:16

 

What is the mind of man—of any man—of your mind, my mind, under affliction? Let him be tried with pain of body, poverty of circumstances, sickness in his family, guilt of conscience, hard bondage in his own soul, without any beam of divine light upon his path, and what is he? A murmuring, rebellious wretch, without a grain of resignation, without a particle of contentment or submission to the will of God.

 

But let the glory of the Lord be revealed; let him have a view by faith of a suffering Jesus; let some ray of light shine upon his path; let there be some breaking in of the exceeding weight of glory that is to be manifested at Christ's appearing; where are all his crooked things now? All made straight. But how? By his crooked will—crooked because it did not lie level with the Lord's—being made to harmonize with the promise and precept, the footsteps and example of the blessed Jesus. The crook is not taken out of the lot, but straightened in the lot; the cross is not removed from the shoulder, but strength—that strength which is "made perfect in weakness"—is given to bear it. So it was with Christ himself in the garden and on the cross; so it is with the believing followers of the crucified One.

Isaiah 43:2

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you." Isa 43:2

 

How many of the dear saints of God, when they have been brought into tribulation and sorrow, have found the fulfillment of this most gracious promise! And is there not one of these waters through which all must go—that deep and rapid Jordan (death) which every one must pass through? How dark and gloomy those waters have appeared to the eyes of many a child of God, in whom is continually fulfilled the experience of the words, "Who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." But how often have these waters only been terrible in prospect, in anticipation. How different has been the reality. When he comes down to the river's bank and his feet dip in these waters, and it appears as though they would rise higher and higher, the Lord suddenly appears in his power and presence, and then the water sinks. He speaks a word of peace to his soul upon a dying bed—reveals Christ in his love and grace and blood—removes those doubts, fears, and disturbing thoughts which have perplexed him for years, and brings into his heart a holy calm, a sweet peace, assuring him that all is well with him, both for time and eternity. Has he not then the fulfillment of the promise, "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you"?

Isaiah 44:3

"For I will pour water upon him who is thirsty." Isa 44:3

 

Thirst, as a feeling of the soul, in a spiritual sense, is certainly indicative of divine life. It is as impossible, spiritually viewed, for a man dead in sin to thirst after a living God, as for a corpse in the graveyard to thirst after a draught of cold water from the well. I know for myself that such a feeling as thirsting after God had no place in my bosom until the Lord was pleased to quicken my soul into spiritual life. I had heard of God by the hearing of the ear. I had seen him in creation, in the starry sky, in the roaring sea, in the teeming earth; I had read of him in the Bible; I had learned his existence by education and tradition; and I had some apprehensions of his holiness in my natural conscience; but as to any spiritual thirsting after him, any earnest desire to fear him, know him, believe in him, or love him—no such experience or feeling, I can say for myself, ever dwelt in my bosom. I loved the world too dearly to look to him who made it, and my SELF too warmly and affectionately to seek him who would bid me crucify and mortify it.

A man, therefore, I am well convinced, must be made alive unto God by spiritual regeneration before he can experience any such sensation as is here conveyed by the figure "thirst," or know anything of the Psalmist's feelings when he cried, "As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Ps 42:1-2). Now wherever God has raised up in the soul this spiritual thirst after himself, he certainly will answer that desire, "the desire of the righteous shall be granted" (Pr 10:24). His own invitation is, "Ho! every one that thirsts, come to the waters" (Isa 55:1); and Jesus himself says with his own blessed lips, "If any man thirsts, let him come unto me and drink" (Joh 7:37). No, he opened his ministry by pronouncing a blessing on such, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled."

"And floods upon the dry ground." Isa 44:3

 

How often does the soul, born and taught of God, feel that it is this "dry ground!" It would gladly be fruitful in every good word and work; it would be adorned with every grace of the Spirit within, and with every good and godly fruit without. Let no one think that the child of God is careless or indifferent either as to inward or outward fruit. There is nothing too holy, too heavenly, too spiritual, or too gracious which the child of grace would not desire inwardly to experience and outwardly produce.

 

But he feels that he cannot by any exertion of his own produce this fruitfulness after which he sighs. As well might a barren field convert itself into a fruitful garden without being tilled by human hand or without rain from the sky, as a soul that feels and knows its own barrenness produce by its own exertions a crop of the fruits of righteousness.

 

But the Lord that knows the desire of the heart, and its inward mourning over its own barrenness, has given in the text a sweet and gracious promise, "I will pour floods upon the dry ground." A partial shower would not be enough. The dry ground would soon absorb only a few drops of summer rain. Floods must come, either from the skies or from the streams of that river which makes glad the city of God, to produce this mighty change. These "floods" are the promises poured into the soul, the love of God shed abroad in the heart, the manifestations of Christ and of his atoning blood, the inflowings of grace as super-abounding over all the aboundings of sin, and the flowing of peace as a river into the contrite spirit.

"For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants." Isa 44:3

 

In pouring out his Spirit upon Zion's offspring, God pours out therewith every spiritual blessing that there is in his heart or hands to bestow. Whatever earthly good you may enjoy, without the blessing of God it will but prove a curse; whatever afflictions fall to your earthly lot, if God blesses them, they must all eventually be made a blessing. Nor is this blessing niggardly given, for the Lord has here promised that he will POUR it out! It shall be given as profusely and as abundantly as the Spirit himself. Nor shall Zion doubt either the blessing itself or the source whence it comes, for it carries its own evidence, shines in the light of its own testimony, and manifests itself by its own effects.

 

And does not the contrast between the dry ground and the promised showers of blessing enhance it all the more? Your very barrenness and sterility make the promise all the more suitable, and therefore all the more sweet. If you look into yourself, a barren wilderness meets your view. If you look up, you see the clouds of blessing floating in the pure sky. You see that the Lord has promised to "pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground." You beg of him to fulfill that promise to your soul. You have no other plea but his own word of promise, no other recommendation but your own miserable barrenness. He enables you to cry to him. He listens to that cry, and in his own time pours water upon your thirsty soul, and floods upon your dry and parched heart. O may a sense of our poverty and destitution be ever a means, in his sacred hand, of leading us to seek that blessing which he alone can bestow!

Isaiah 44:4

"And they shall spring up as among the grass." Isa 44:4

 

The Lord's people are spoken of here as at once "springing up" under the influence of the water poured, and of the floods given. We cannot mistake the spiritual meaning of the figure, as it is so clear and certain. In those burning regions where rain does not fall at all seasons from the skies, as in our dripping climate, the effect of copious showers falling upon the parched vegetation is almost miraculous. A few days completely reverse the scene, and on every side vegetation springs up as if it started with gigantic growth out of the bosom of the heated soil. To this the figure in the text alludes, "They shall spring up," that is, Zion's children, "as among the grass," with all that young and active growth which so clearly manifests the power and the blessing of God.

 

But what may we understand by the expression "grass?" May we not interpret it as emblematic of the flesh, according to the words of the prophet, "All flesh is grass!" (Isa 40:6.) All the pride, pomp, and beauty of the flesh are but as grass, for "all the glory of man is as the flower of grass" (1Pe 1:24), which, when cut down by the scythe, soon withers, is gathered into heaps, and swept away out of the field. In this point of view we may consider the children of God to spring up among the sons of men as flowers among the grass, bedecking it with beauty—the only beautiful objects among the green blades. O how blessed it is to see children of God springing up here and there among the grass which everywhere so thickly covers the meadow! Time may have been when you were hidden beneath the grass—when, though a flower in God's sight, your root was in the dust, and you lay undistinguished amid the thick herbage. But being a flower, one of the Redeemer's own lilies, among whom he feeds (Song 6:3), when the rain of heaven dropped upon you, you sprang up amid the crowded blades which before hid you from view.

 

"They will spring up . . . as willows by the flowing streams." Isa 44:4

 

The willow, we know, cannot exist without water; it must be near the brook or river, or it withers and dies. Take a young willow and plant it upon a mountain top or in the sandy desert, and it soon droops and perishes. But take the barest twig off the willow, and plant it near a stream, so that the water may reach it, and it will soon shoot downwards and push a vigorous stem upwards.

 

So it is with the child of grace—he must live by the river side; he must dip his roots into that "river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God," and by it he must be continually bathed, or he droops and dies. He cannot live in the world, away from Jesus, his word, ordinances, house, people, presence, Spirit, and grace, any more than a willow can live upon the mountain top. He cannot live among carnal men, cut off from union and communion with his great and glorious Head, any more than the willow can thrive and grow in the wilderness. How beautifully is this set forth by the prophet Jeremiah—"Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is—for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit" (Jer 17:7-8). The saints of God, then, grow like "willows by the flowing streams."

 

How enduring, also, is the willow. What life in every branch! and even when cut down low, still reviving "through the scent of water" (Job 14:9), and shooting out its branches afresh. May we not see in this a fitting emblem of the child of God, and admire how, like the willow, he preserves life and vigor when the nobler trees of the forest are blown down by the storm or are cut down for fuel?

Isaiah 44:5

"One shall say, I am the Lord's—and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel." Isa 44:5

 

"Another shall call himself by the name of Jacob." Jacob was a wrestler, for he wrestled all night with the angel; and by wrestling he obtained the blessing. So at present you may be a wrestling Jacob, but have not yet come off a prevailing Israel. You may not be without a sense of guilt and bondage at times in your conscience, and may often doubt and fear whether the root of the matter be in you, because you cannot use the language of assurance and say, "I am the Lord's." Still you may be a wrestling Jacob. The Lord may have put his Spirit in you to enable you to wrestle with him for the blessing, and yet he may not have given you that appropriating faith whereby you can believe that he is yours, and can call him such.

 

How full was the patriarch Jacob of doubt and fear when his own life, and that of his wife and children, lay in the very hands of the injured Esau! But it was this very fear which made him wrestle all the harder, and more fervently cry out, "I will not let you go except you bless me." Can you not say, "I am seeking for a blessing of this kind with all my heart; I am wrestling with God for it by prayer and supplication, and nothing less can satisfy me?" If this be your experience, you certainly may "call yourself by the name of Jacob."

 

"And shall surname himself by the name of Israel." As Jacob represents a wrestler in the court of grace, so Israel is the emblem of one who has obtained the blessing. When, therefore, any wrestling Jacob has prevailed with God by strength of arm, he may surname himself by the name of Israel. He can then say, "I have wrestled with God for the promised blessing, and have obtained it. I have cried unto the Lord, and he has heard my cry. I have spread my petition before him, and he has at last granted it." So wrestled and so prevailed Hannah, David, Hezekiah, and many a saint both dead and living.

Isaiah 45:3

"I will give you the treasures of darkness." Isa 45:3

 

Is not this a strange expression? "Treasures of darkness!" How can there be darkness in the City of Salvation of which the Lord the Lamb is the eternal light? The expression does not mean that the treasures themselves are darkness, but that they were hidden in darkness until they were brought to light. The treasures of Belshazzar, like the Bank bullion, were buried in darkness until they were broken up and given to Cyrus.

 

It is so in a spiritual sense. Are there not treasures in the Lord Jesus? Oh! what treasures of grace in his glorious Person! What treasures of pardon in his precious blood! What treasures of righteousness in his perfect obedience! What treasures of salvation in all that he is and has as the great High Priest over the house of God! Yet, all these treasures are "treasures of darkness," so far as they are hidden from our eyes and hearts, until we are brought by his special power into the City of Salvation. Then these treasures are not only brought to light, revealed, and made known, but the soul is at once put into possession of them. They are not only seen, as the Bank of England clerk sees notes and sovereigns, but are by a special deed of gift from the Court of Heaven made over to him who by faith in the Lord Jesus receives him into his heart. No one has the least conception of the treasures of grace that are in the Lord Jesus until he is brought out of darkness into God's marvelous light, and knows him and the power of his resurrection by the sweet manifestations of his presence and love.

 

But the word "treasures" signifies not only something laid up and hidden from general view, but, being in the plural number, expresses an infinite, incalculable amount—an amount which can never be expended, but suffices, and suffices, and suffices again for all needs and for all believing comers. When we get a view by faith of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus and see the everflowing and overflowing fullness of his grace, and how it superabounds over all the aboundings of sin, it may well fill our minds with holy wonder and admiration. When we get a glimpse of the virtue and efficacy of his atoning blood, that precious blood which "cleanses from all sin," and that divine righteousness which is "unto all and upon all those who believe," what treasures of mercy, pardon, and peace are seen laid up in him! To see this by the eye of faith, and enter into its beauty and blessedness, is indeed to comprehend with all saints the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, and to know something of the love of Christ which passes knowledge. The sun will cease to give his light, and the earth to yield her increase; but these treasures will still be unexhausted, for they are in themselves infinite and inexhaustible.

Isaiah 45:22

"Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other." Isa 45:22

 

Until in soul feeling, we are at "the ends of the earth," we have no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no hearts to feel what a glorious Mediator there is at the right hand of the Father. And the more we feel to be at "the ends of the earth," the deeper is our need of him; and as the Spirit unfolds the mystery of the glorious Person of Christ, and reveals his beauty, the more does he become the object of the soul's admiration and adoration. And O what a Mediator is held out in the word of truth to living faith! What a subject for spiritual faith to look to, for a lively hope to anchor in, and for divine love to embrace! That the Son of God, who lay in the bosom of the Father from all eternity, equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the second Person in the glorious Trinity, should condescend to take upon him our nature, that he might groan, suffer, bleed, and die for guilty wretches, who, if permitted, would have ruined their souls a thousand times a day—what a wonder of wonders!

 

But we cannot enter into, nor feel the power of this mystery until we are reduced to such circumstances, that none but such a Savior can save our souls. Can we do anything to save ourselves? Then we need no help from that mighty One on whom God has laid help; and we secretly reject him. Can we heal ourselves? Then we do not need the good Physician. But when our eyes are opened to see our own thorough ruin and helplessness, and to view the glorious Person of the Son of God, faith is drawn out to flee to and rest upon that glorious Object.

 

"Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth—for I am God, and there is no other." Isa 45:22

 

How often we seem not to have any real religion, or enjoy any solid comfort! How often are our evidences obscured and beclouded, and our minds covered with deep darkness! How often does the Lord hide himself, so that we cannot behold him, nor get near to him; and how often the ground on which we thought we stood is cut from under our feet, and we have no firm standing! What a painful path is this to walk in, but how profitable!

 

When we are reduced to poverty and beggary, we learn to value Christ's glorious riches; the worse opinion we have of our own heart, and the more deceitful and desperately wicked that we find it, the more we put our trust in his faithfulness. The more black we are in our own esteem, the more beautiful and lovely does he appear in our eyes. As we sink, Jesus rises. As we become feeble, he puts forth his strength. As we come into danger, he brings deliverance; as we get into temptation, he breaks the snare. As we are shut up in darkness and obscurity, he causes the light of his countenance to shine. Now it is by being led in this way, and walking in these paths, that we come rightly to know who Jesus is, and to see and feel how suitable and precious such a Savior is to our undone souls. We are needy, he has in himself all riches; we are hungry, he is the bread of life; we are thirsty, he says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink;" we are naked, and he has clothing to bestow; we are fools, and he has wisdom to grant; we are lost, and he speaks, "Look unto me, and be saved." Thus, so far from our misery shutting us out from God's mercy, it is the only requisite for it; so far from our guilt excluding his pardon, it is the only thing needful for it; so far from our helplessness ruining our souls, it is the needful preparation for the manifestation of his power in our weakness; we cannot heal our own wounds and sores; that is the very reason why he should stretch forth his arm. It is because there is no salvation in ourselves, or in any other creature, that he says, "Look unto me, for I am God, and there is none else."

Isaiah 45:24

"Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength." Isa 45:24

 

Have you yet learned that you are a sinner in the sight of God? Have you ever felt the length, breadth, and spirituality of his holy law? Do you feel in your very soul that without Christ's righteousness being imputed to you, and his blood being sprinkled upon your conscience, you must die in your sins and never reach the heavenly shore? Has this ever been, or is it still a matter of anxious solicitude to you? Has it ever caused sighs and groans to come out of your heart? Has the spirit of prayer ever been given, to make you plead with the Lord for the forgiveness of your sins, through the merits of a crucified Savior? And have you any hope but in his blood, righteousness, and finished work?

 

Now if the Lord has been pleased to exercise your soul in this way, if he has not yet granted the longing desire of your heart, he certainly will in due time reveal his dear Son in you as the God-man who has saved you from death and hell; he will apply his atoning blood to your conscience, bring near his glorious righteousness, shed abroad his dying love, give and strengthen faith, and draw it forth into a blessed assurance of your saving interest in the Son of his love.

 

Or if your manifestations should not be very bright and conspicuous, he will give you a good hope through grace, as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast; and will draw up your affections to that blessed Lord who sits at the right hand of the Father in power, majesty, and glory. And as he does this, he enables the believer thus favored and blessed to take these words into his lips, "In the Lord have I righteousness."

 

He cannot say it before. He may know that there is no righteousness but in the Lord; he may have utterly renounced his own; he may have sunk very deep into guilt and bondage; but until the Lord the Spirit is pleased to liberate him, he cannot come forth into liberty; until he has the witness of the Spirit he cannot cry, "Abba, Father."

 

But when the Lord is pleased to bring near his righteousness, to reveal his dying love, and to shed it abroad in his heart by divine power, then he can say, "In the Lord have I righteousness." And when he has this, he wants no other; it is complete, which no other can be. It is acceptable to God; it is available in the courts of heaven; it will bear him up through all the storms of time; it will smooth a dying pillow, and land him safely in a glorious eternity.

 

"In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength." Isa 45:24

 

The same blessed Spirit who shines as with a ray of light and life into the conscience, to make it feel the guilt of sin, the curse of the law, and its own miserable state as a transgressor, leads it also into this secret, that it has no strength. Have you never felt that you were utterly powerless—that you would believe, but could not; would hope, but could not; would love, but could not; would keep God's word, but could not; would obey his commandments, but were not able? Has a sense of your own miserable impotency and thorough helplessness never pressed you down almost to despair?

 

You felt sure that there was a faith, a hope, a love, a blessing, and a blessedness in the truth of God; a pardon, a peace, a heavenly joy; an assurance of salvation, a union and communion with the Lord Jesus, which you saw, but could not reach. You felt that if you could believe, all would be well, but believe you could not. Thus you learned you had no strength, and as we learn our weakness in this way, we begin to learn also in whom is our strength; and as we get access to Christ by a living faith, we receive strength out of him for a supply of our spiritual necessities.

 

Despairing of all strength in self, we look to the Lord Jesus Christ, at the right hand of the Father, to give us his; we lift up our prayers and supplications to the great High Priest over the house of God, to strengthen us with strength in our soul; and when he is pleased, in answer to prayer, to send down his Spirit and grace, we are "strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power unto all patience and patience with joyfulness." This is being "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might;" and a being "strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man."

 

"Even to him shall men come." Isa 45:24

 

The Lord has given an absolute promise that "in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." And no less absolute is the addition, and as it were divine corollary to that promise, "To him shall men come." And who gives them will and power to come? The Father himself, according to the Lord's own words, "No man can come to me except the Father who has sent me draws him." But will the Father draw all the chosen vessels of mercy to Jesus? Surely he will; for the Lord adds, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me" (Joh 6:45).

 

Every act of faith whereby you look to Jesus is a coming. Every beam and ray of hope in his blood and righteousness is a coming. Every sigh, groan, or tear; every contrite feeling, every breathing desire of a broken heart, all are a coming. So that though you may not be able to realize as fully as you could wish a saving interest in the former part of the promise, "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength;" yet there is wrought in your soul by a divine power that secret coming whereby you have a manifested saving interest in the second part of it, "Even to him shall men come."

 

We cannot come until we are drawn. "Draw me," says the bride, "we will run after you" (Song 1:4). "The Lord has appeared of old unto me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you." When we are drawn, then we come, and cannot but come. It is good to come. Even those who have received must be ever coming. We get nothing but by coming. Our daily life, as one of faith and hope, is a life of coming. Our continual prayer is a continual coming. For the language of the Church still is, "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Thus must we be ever coming that we may be ever receiving; and so everything that makes us come has in it a real or an implied blessing. Nor will you come in vain, be you who or what you may. "For him that comes to me," the blessed Lord himself has said, "I will in no wise cast out."

Isaiah 46:10

"My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." Isa 46:10

 

There is one grand idea running through the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation; and this one grand idea runs through every part of the sacred page, and, like a golden band, unites the whole together. What is this one grand thought?

 

God has many thoughts as well as we, for he tells us that "the thoughts of his heart stand to all generations." But we read also in the same verse of "the counsel of the Lord, which stands forever;" and elsewhere of his "working all things after the counsel of his own will" (Ps 33:11; Eph 1:11). Thus in the mind of God, as well as in the mode of his subsistence, there is unity and variety. There is his one thought, and his many thoughts; for though his thoughts are many, his counsel is but one; and this counsel is the exaltation and glorification of his dear Son. It may be as well briefly to trace this unity of thought and the variety of its expression. We see it, then, first expressed in the creation of the first man, when God made him "in his own image, after his own likeness." There was the expression of God's one thought; for Adam the first was a type of Adam the second, and as Christ was by lineal descent "the son of Adam," there was a foreview in the creation of the first man of the incarnation of God's dear Son, who is the brightness of his glory and the express image of his Person.

 

Now next observe how all things were put under Adam's feet, and he thus made the visible head of creation. Read this exaltation of Adam in the light of Ps 8, and you will see how the inspired Psalmist, as interpreted by the Apostle (Heb 2:7-9), viewed Adam, in having all things put under his feet, as a type of Jesus, whom God has crowned with glory and honor, set him over the works of his hands, and put all things in subjection under his feet. Look next at the first promise given after the fall, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. There we have God's one thought again expressed, his dominant counsel in the incarnation of his dear Son, as the seed of the woman, to bruise Satan's head. Look at Noah preserved in the ark with his family when the rest of the world was swept away by the deluge, that from the loins of Adam might come the promised seed.

 

Take the case of Abraham, called by a special calling, that in him and his seed all the nations of the earth might be blessed. Here we have again God's one thought. Take, again, the whole of the Levitical dispensation. Every rite, every sacrifice, every type, every ordinance, all still bear the same stamp of God's one thought, and indeed every part of Scripture is but an exposition of this one thought of God's heart, of this one counsel of his eternal will.

 

The word of God is a total mystery to us, and we see no beauty or harmony in the various books of either the Old Testament or the New until we see the mind of God in it, gather up God's thoughts, and especially that grand thought which I have spoken of as binding the whole together, that is, the exaltation of his dear Son to his own right hand as the promised reward of his sufferings and death, and the glorious result of his resurrection and ascension up to the courts of bliss.

Isaiah 48:10

"I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction." Isa 48:10

 

According to God's own testimony, it is "through much tribulation" that we are to enter into the kingdom; and therefore there is no entering into the kingdom of grace here, or the kingdom of glory hereafter, without it. But let this be ever borne in mind, that whatever affliction befalls the saints, it is laid upon them by the hand of God, and that for the express purpose of putting them into a situation and of making them capable of receiving those comforts which God only can bestow.

 

None but Jesus himself and the Father can comfort a truly afflicted heart. And he can and does from time to time comfort his dear people by a sense of his presence; by a word of power from his gracious lips; by the light of his countenance; by the balm of his atoning blood and dying love; and by the work and witness of the Spirit within. And as they receive this consolation from the mouth of God, their hearts are comforted. How good the Lord is of his own free grace to bestow such blessings upon his redeemed family! May he give us much of them! And may he, wherever he has bestowed upon any of us everlasting consolation, or even a good hope through grace, comfort our hearts as we journey through this valley of tears, and may our consolations be neither few nor small.

Isaiah 51:1

"Look unto the rock whence you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence you were dug." Isa 51:1

 

It is as though the Lord would here by the pen of his prophet turn our eyes to our native origin. And what is that? The same quarry out of which the other stones come. If you and I, by God's grace, are "living stones," we come out of the same quarry with the dead, unbelieving, unregenerate world; there is no difference in that respect. No, we are perhaps sunk lower in the quarry than some of those in whom God never has, and never will, put his grace. It is not the upper stratum, what is called "the capstone," of the quarry, which is to be taken to be hewn into a pillar; they go down deep into the pit to get at the marble which is to be chiseled into the ornamental column.

 

So with God's saints. They do not lie at the top of the quarry; but the Lord has to go down very low, that he may bring up these stones out of the depths of the fall, and lift them, as it were, out of deeper degradation than those which lie nearer the surface. I remember reading once an expression which a Portland quarryman used when he was asked a question with respect to the hard labor of getting out the stone. He said, "It is enough to heave our hearts out." The stone lay so deep, and required such severe bodily exertion, that the laborer was forced to throw not only all his weight, sinews, and muscles into the work, but his very heart also.

 

So it is with the elect of God. They are sunk so low, in such dreadful depths of degradation, at such an infinite distance from God, so hidden and buried from everything good and godlike, that, so to speak, it required all the strength and power of Jehovah to lift them out of the pit. In raising them out of the quarry of nature, he spent, as it were, upon them all his heart; for wherein was the heart of God so manifested as in the incarnation of his only-begotten Son, and in the work, righteousness, sufferings, blood, and death of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Isaiah 53:6

"The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isa 53:6

 

What heart can conceive, what tongue express what the holy soul of Christ endured when "the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all?" In the garden of Gethsemane, what a load of guilt, what a weight of sin, what an intolerable burden of the wrath of God did that sacred humanity endure, until the pressure of sorrow and woe forced the drops of blood to fall as sweat from his brow. The human nature in its weakness recoiled, as it were, from the cup of anguish put into his hand. His body could scarcely bear the load that pressed him down; his soul, under the waves and billows of God's wrath, sank in deep mire where there was no standing, and came into deep waters where the floods overflowed him (Ps 69:1-2).

 

And how could it be otherwise when that sacred humanity was enduring all the wrath of God, suffering the very pangs of hell, and wading in all the depths of guilt and terror? When the blessed Lord was made sin (or a sin-offering) for us, he endured in his holy soul all the pangs of distress, horror, alarm, misery, and guilt that the elect would have felt in hell forever; and not only as any one of them would have felt, but as the collective whole would have experienced under the outpouring of the everlasting wrath of God. The anguish, the distress, the darkness, the condemnation, the shame, the guilt, the unutterable horror, that any or all of his quickened family have ever experienced under a sense of God's wrath, the curse of the law, and the terrors of hell, are only faint, feeble reflections of what the Lord felt in the garden and on the cross; for there were attendant circumstances in his case which are not, and indeed cannot be in theirs, and which made the distress and agony of his holy soul, both in nature and degree, such as none but he could feel or know.

 

He as the eternal Son of God, who had lain in his bosom before all worlds, had known all the blessedness and happiness of the love and favor of the Father, his own Father, shining upon him, for he was "by him as one brought up with him, and was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him" (Pr 8:30). When, then, instead of love he felt his displeasure, instead of the beams of his favor he experienced the frowns and terrors of his wrath, instead of the light of his countenance he tasted the darkness and gloom of desertion—what heart can conceive, what tongue express the bitter anguish which must have wrung the soul of our suffering Surety under this agonizing experience?

Isaiah 54:5

"For your Maker is your husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called." Isa 54:5

 

As in the marriage union man and wife become one flesh, and, God having joined them together, no man may put them asunder, so when the Lord Jesus Christ, in "the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure," betrothed the Church unto himself, they became before the face of heaven, one in indissoluble ties. As he undertook in "the fullness of time" to be "made of a woman," she became one with him in body by virtue of a common nature; and becomes one with him in spirit when, as each individual member comes forth into a time state, the blessed Spirit unites it to him by regenerating grace. Such is the testimony of the word of truth. "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones;" "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." Her union, therefore, with his flesh ensures to her body conformity in the resurrection morn to the glorified body of Jesus; and her union with his spirit ensures to her soul an eternity of bliss in the perfection of knowledge, holiness, and love. Thus the union of the Church with Christ commenced in the councils of eternal wisdom and love, is made known upon earth by regenerating grace, and is perfected in heaven in the fullness of glory.

 

The Church, it is true, fell in Adam from that state of innocence and purity in which she was originally created. But how the Adamic fall, in all its miserable consequences, instead of canceling the bond and disannulling the everlasting covenant, only served more fully and gloriously to reveal and make known the love of Christ to his chosen bride in all its breadth and length and depth and height! She fell, it is true, into unspeakable, unfathomable depths of sin and misery, guilt and crime; but she never fell out of his heart or out of his arms.

 

Yet what without the fall would have been known of dying love or of the mystery of the cross! Where would have been the song of the redeemed, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood?" Where the victory over death and hell, or the triumphs of super-abounding grace over the aboundings of sin, guilt, and despair? Where would have been the "leading captivity captive," the "spoiling principalities and powers, and making a show of them openly, triumphing over them in himself?" What would have been known of that most precious attribute of God, mercy? What of his forbearance and long-suffering; what of his pitiful compassion to the poor, lost children of men?

 

As then the Church's head and husband could not and would not dissolve the union, break the covenant, or alter the thing that had gone out of his lips, and yet could not take her openly unto himself in all her filth, and guilt, and shame, he had to redeem her with his own heart's blood, with agonies and sufferings such as earth or heaven never before witnessed, with those dolorous cries under the hidings of his Father's face, which made the earth to quake, the rocks to rend, and the sun to withdraw its light. But his love was strong as death, and he endured the cross, despising the shame, bearing her sins in his own body on the tree, and thus suffering the penalty due to her crimes, reconciled her unto God "in the body of his flesh, through death, to present her holy; and unblameable, and unreproveable in his sight."

 

Having thus reconciled her unto God, as she comes forth from the womb of time, he visits member after member of his mystical body with his regenerating grace, that "he may sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word," and thus eventually "present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing."

Isaiah 54:11

"O you afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted." Isa 54:11

 

The Lord here compares his suffering Church to a ship at sea, laboring in a heavy storm, driven out of her course by contrary winds, as was Paul's case in the Adriatic, and doubtful whether she will ever reach the harbor; as the hymn says, "Half a wreck by tempests driven."

 

What a picture of a tempest-tossed soul! Sun and stars beclouded, compass lost, chart useless, pilot absent, and breakers ahead! Many, very many of the Lord's dear family are thus "tossed with tempest;" some with a tempest of doubts and fears; others with a tempest of lust and corruptions; some with a tempest of rebellion and fretfulness; others with a storm of guilt and despondency, or with gloomy forebodings and dismal apprehensions. Thus they are driven from their course, their sun and stars all obscured; no clear evidences, no bright manifestations; darkness above, and a raging sea beneath; no harbor in sight, and hope of reaching the desired haven almost gone.

 

But it is further said of Zion, that she is "not comforted;" that is, not comforted by, nor capable of comfort from, any other than God. This I look upon as a very decisive mark of a work of grace upon the soul. When a man is so distressed in his feelings, so cast down in his mind, and so troubled in his conscience, that none but God can comfort him, we seem to be at once on the footsteps of the Spirit. We do not find hypocrites on this ground. False professors can easily take comfort; they can steal what God does not give, and appropriate what he does not apply. But Zion's special mark is that she is "not comforted," that her wounds are too deep for human balms, her sickness too sore for creature medicines. God has reserved her comfort in his own hands; from his lips alone can consolation be spoken into her soul.

 

"Behold, I will lay your stones with fair colors." Isa 54:11

 

By these "stones," which the Lord has promised to "lay with fair colors," I think we may understand the blessed truths of the gospel which are laid into the soul by the hand of God. The fair colors are deeply ingrained and embedded in the very substance of the stone, not artificially laid on. They are like beautiful marbles, in which every bright hue and vein penetrate into the deepest substance of the material. Such are the truths of God, beautiful throughout, penetrated with grace and glory into their inmost depths.

 

But these colors are hidden from view until brought out and laid into the soul by the hand of God. However fair or beautiful any word of God be in itself, it only experimentally becomes so as inlaid by his own divine hand into the soul. This brings out the fair colors. How often we read the word of God without seeing the least beauty in it! But let the very same portion come home with sweetness and power to the soul, then beauty, inexpressible beauty, is seen in it immediately; it becomes "a stone of fair colors." Salvation full and free, the pardoning love of God, the precious blood of the Lamb, justification by Christ's imputed righteousness, "wine and milk without money and without price," super-abounding grace, eternal mercy, everlasting life—these are some of the precious stones with fair colors which God the Spirit with his own hand lays into the conscience.

"I will lay your foundations with sapphires." Isa 54:11

 

Before we can stand firmly in the things of God we must have a good foundation, something solid for our faith, our hope, our love, our all, to rest upon. This God promises to lay for his afflicted Zion—"I will lay your foundations with sapphires." "A gift," we read, "is a precious stone in the eyes of him that has it." Every testimony, then, that God gives to the soul, every promise brought into the heart, every manifestation of mercy, every visit of love, or application of truth, we may call, in a spiritual sense, a sapphire; for it is indeed a precious stone, radiant with heaven's own hue. When God thus lays his sapphires in the soul, they afford a solid foundation for faith. And as they are laid by the hand of God himself, they must be firm; as they are sapphires, they must be indestructible. These sapphires, it is true, may every one of them be buried in the dust of carnality and worldly-mindedness; the filth and sewage, the mud and slush, of our fallen nature may roll over them flood after flood. But are they injured thereby? is their nature changed, their value impaired, their hue tarnished, their luster faded and gone? They may be hidden from view, their setting be obscured, and their faces for a while be dimmed, but one ray from the Sun of righteousness will bring them again to light; one touch of the Polisher's hand will restore all their beauty. Grace has no more communion with sin than a diamond with an ash-heap.

Isaiah 54:12

"And I will make your windows of agates, and your gates of carbuncles, and all your walls of pleasant stones." Isa 54:12

 

Upon Zion in her time-state "the Sun of righteousness" does not shine in all his brightness; the "windows of agate," while she is in the flesh, temper his rays. Her prospects, also, are not fully bright and clear; as the Apostle speaks, "We see through" (or in) "a glass darkly;" we have not those clear views which the saints have in glory, where they see Jesus face to face. We have prospects sometimes, I hope, in our souls, of God, and Christ, and heavenly glory; but still these views are but semi-transparent, streaked and clouded like a window of agate, not bright and clear as a pane of plate glass. But as Daniel opened his windows toward Jerusalem, that he might see by faith what he could not see by sight, so should we aim to look towards the heavenly Jerusalem, that by faith we may there "see him who is invisible."

 

But the Lord speaks of Zion's "gates." "And your gates of carbuncles." The carbuncle is of a blood-red color; and why should the Lord have chosen that Zion's gates should be of this peculiar hue? May we not, without wresting the figure too closely, believe that there is some mystic allusion here to the blood of the Lamb? As scarlet wool was taken by Moses, when he sprinkled the people, and as Rahab's house was marked by a scarlet thread, may there not be something here significant in the color of the gates?

 

But "gates," or doors, not only give exit, but admission. How does God hear prayer, and answer it too? Only through the "gate of carbuncle." Prayer ascends through Jesus, and answers descend through Jesus; groans through Jesus enter the ears of the God of Sabbath, and through the same bleeding gate of mercy do answers drop into the soul. Our poor self-righteous hearts can hardly comprehend this; we think we must have a good frame, or bring a good deed, or something good in ourselves, to make our prayers acceptable to God. Perish the thought! It is nothing but the spawn of self-righteousness. The "gates of carbuncle," the open wounds of the Lamb, through these every prayer ascends, through these every answer comes down; and if we set up anything else, or make a gate of human merit, we do despite to the Spirit of God, and pour contempt upon the grace and blood of the Lamb.

 

"And all your walls of pleasant stones." God's providential dealings, which often form the outer setting of his inward mercies, are of pleasant stones. North, south, east, west, all Zion's walls are of precious materials. The daily events of life, the circumstances of family, station, employment, success, or the contrary, the ties of domestic affection, with all those varied circumstances which seem rather the walls and outer courts than the inner sanctuary of gracious experience—yet all these are of divine material and workmanship. Viewed by faith, every event and circumstance of life, however apparently grievous, is a pleasant stone; for Zion is a king's daughter, and the lowest of all her courts is made of pleasant stones. For of wisdom, that is, vital godliness, we read, "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."

Isaiah 54:13

"All your children shall be taught of the Lord." — Isa 54:13

 

The teaching of God can only be known and realized by those who have seen an end of all creature perfection, and who are completely and experimentally destitute of all wisdom in the flesh. And God's teaching does not leave a man where it found him—dead, stupified, worldly, unfeeling, and carnal. If he is in distress, it does not leave him in distress; if he feels guilty, it does not leave him guilty; if he is in darkness, it does not leave him in darkness; but it lifts him out of these evils. Thus God's people are continually led to come unto him for his instruction, because they feel that without his special teaching they can know nothing as they ought to know.

 

No, the more they have, the more they want to have; for no sooner is the light withdrawn, than the darkness is more sensibly felt. If any text of Scripture has been opened up to them, it makes them want to have others made known in a similar way; if they have had any consolation, and it is taken away, it makes them want it again. So that the more wise and spiritual God's people become, the more foolish and carnal they appear in their own eyes; the stronger they are in the Lord and in the power of his might, the more sensibly do they feel the weakness of their flesh; and the more they are enabled to walk closely with the Lord, the more they discover the wretched wanderings of their base and sinful hearts.

Isaiah 55:1

"Ho, every one that thirsts, come to the waters; and he that has no money; come, buy, and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Isa 55:1

 

How many a poor sensible sinner has, upon the strength of these words, looked unto Jesus and been lightened (Ps 34:5), come to him and met with a kind reception. By the power which attends such invitations the heart is opened, as was the heart of Lydia, to attend unto the things spoken in the gospel. It is not put away as too holy for a poor polluted sinner to touch, nor is the Lord Jesus viewed as an angry judge; but in these invitations his clemency, tenderness, and compassion are seen and felt, and beams and rays of his mercy and grace both enlighten the understanding and soften and melt the heart. Thence spring confession of sin, self-loathing, renunciation of one's own righteousness, earnest desires and breathings after the Lord, and an embracing of the love of the truth so far as made known.

 

And as all these effects, so different from the old dead pharisaic religion, are produced by the power of the word upon the heart, the Bible becomes a new book, and is read and studied with attention and delight. The ears, also, being unstopped, as well as the eyes opened, if there be the opportunity of hearing the preached gospel, with what eagerness is it embraced, and what a sweetness there is found in it. All who have passed through these things will agree with us that there are no such hearing days as what Job calls "the days of our youth, when the secret of God is upon our tabernacle" (Job 29:4).

Isaiah 57:15

For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy—"I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite." Isa 57:15

 

O what a mystery that God should have two dwelling-places! The "heaven of heavens" that "cannot contain him;" and the humble, broken, and contrite heart! But in order that the Lord of heaven might have a place in which he could live and lodge, God gives to his people gifts and graces; for he cannot come and dwell in the carnal mind, in our rebellious nature, in a heart full of enmity and wickedness; he therefore makes a lodging-place for himself, a pavilion in which the King of glory dwells, the curtains of which are like the curtains of Solomon. His abode is that holy, divine nature which is communicated at regeneration—"the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Thus Christ dwells in the heart by faith; and is "in his people, the hope of glory." And this made Paul say, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

 

This is the object of God's dealings—that the Lord God might dwell in his people; that there might be a union between the Church and her covenant Head—"I in them, and they in me, that they might be perfect in one." This is the unfolding of the grand enigma, the solution of the incomprehensible mystery, "God manifest in the flesh,"—that the Lord God might dwell in his people; "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people;" and thus glorify himself by filling their hearts with his grace and glory, as Solomon's temple was of old, and that they might enjoy him, and be with him when time shall be no more. This is the grand key to all the Lord's dealings with the soul, and all his mysterious leadings in providence—that the Lord God might dwell in the hearts of his people here, and be eternally glorified in them in a brighter and a better world.

Isaiah 57:19

"Peace, peace to him that is far off." Isa 57:19

 

Far off! What does that mean? It means that the soul passing through that experience is separated, in its feelings, and at an infinite distance from God. Now this inward sense of being "far off" is one of the most painful feelings that a quickened soul can experience. The ungodly, who are really afar off, know nothing experimentally of distance from God, for they have never been brought spiritually near. They have felt no "cords of love, no bands of a man" drawing them with sweet attraction to the throne of the most High; they have never sighed after the sweet manifestations of God's mercy and love; but they live gladly, and wallow wilfully in those things which separate the soul from its Maker.

 

But those who are "afar off" in their feelings, are such as have seen something of the beauty of the Lord, and felt the evil of sin, who spiritually know Jehovah's purity and the creature's impurity, and have experienced the inward curse, bondage, and condemnation of a holy law. A spiritual discovery of his purity and holiness, making manifest their own vileness, has thrust them down from their self-righteous or presumptuous standing, and made them far off from him; not daring to draw near, nor able to approach; not feeling any spiritual access, but sighing and mourning over their evil hearts in the wilderness, in desolate places; and unable to move a single step forward, because the Lord does not draw them by his smile.

 

A man must know something experimentally of this before he is brought near. How can we know a feeling of nearness if we have not known a feeling of distance? How can we know what it is to be brought "from the end of the earth" (Ps 61:2) by the manifestation of God's mercy and love, unless we have been driven there, in our feelings, by some manifestation of the wrath of God against sin? But to see the blessed Lord, and not be able to draw near to him; to view his atoning blood at an infinite distance from us, his glorious righteousness well-near out of sight, and his lovely Person out of the reach of our spiritual view, so as not to enjoy any access to these glorious realities—to know this experimentally and feelingly, is to be "far off" from God. And I believe that God's people know very much of this feeling. There is not much nearness in our day; not much dandling upon the knees, not much smiling upon the soul, not many love visits, nor love tokens communicated. There is, indeed, a great deal of talking about them; and there are abundance of people who profess to have them; but I fear they are, for the most part, cheats and counterfeits. The real people of God, the true-hearted family are, for the most part, "afar off upon the sea," for it is a dark and cloudy day in which we live.

Isaiah 64:8

"But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you our Potter; and we all are the work of your hand." Isa 64:8

 

Until free-will, self-righteousness, creature exertions, and human merit are dried up and withered away, until they all die, we can never come into that spot where we are the clay, and God is the Potter. Can the clay make itself into a vessel? Can it mold itself into shape and form? Can it start from its bed, and work itself up into a vessel for use or ornament? No more can we make ourselves fit for glory, or mold ourselves into vessels of honor. If the Lord does but give us the feeling in our souls, our sweetest privilege, our dearest enjoyment, is to be the clay.

 

Free-will, self-righteousness, human wisdom, and creature strength—we give them all to the pharisees; let them make the most of them. But when the Lord indulges our souls with some measure of access to himself, and brings us in all humility and brokenness to lie low before his throne, we feel that we are nothing but what he makes us, have nothing but what he gives us, experience nothing but what he works in us, and do nothing but what he does in and for us. To be here, and to lie here, is to be the clay; and to find the Lord working in us holy desires, fervent breathings, secret cries, and the actings of faith, hope, and love; and to feel these things freely given, graciously communicated, and divinely wrought, and to know the Lord is doing all this for us and in us, is to find him the Potter, and is to be brought to the sweetest, lowliest, and happiest spot that a soul can come into.

Jeremiah 2:2

"Thus says the Lord; I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." Jer 2:2

 

Salvation is a gift, the choicest and richest gift which the hands of a Triune God, whose name is Love, can bestow. It is a portion, an inheritance, an estate, a treasure, an eternal reality. The full possession, the entire enjoyment, the complete acquisition of this predestinated weight of glory, is indeed reserved until a future state; but the pledges, the firstfruits, the early ripe clusters, the first dew-drops of this eternal inheritance, are given to the elect while upon earth.

 

The everlasting enjoyment of the presence and glory of Christ is often compared in Scripture to a wedding. Thus we read (Re 19:7) of "the Lamb's wife," and of "the marriage of the Lamb." So the Church is said to be "brought unto the King in clothing of needlework," as the bride, in Eastern countries, was brought by the father to the bridegroom. But we read of "espousals" also, which always preceded the celebration of the marriage. "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals." "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." So Joseph was "espoused to the virgin Mary, before they came together," that is, before they became man and wife. Now this espousal was a necessary prelude to marriage, though it was not the same thing. And, therefore, a betrothed virgin was punished as an adulteress by the Levitical law, if she was unfaithful to her espoused husband. To be betrothed had the nature of marriage in it, though it was not the same thing as marriage. The parties did not live together, and were not put in possession of each other.

 

Thus, it is in this life that the spiritual betrothment takes place, and the spiritual marriage in the life to come. "I will betroth you unto me in righteousness and in judgment, and in loving-kindness and in mercies; I will even betroth you unto me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord" (Ho 2:19-20).

 

"Thus says the Lord; I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." Jer 2:2

 

If we look at salvation, we shall see that it consists of three parts; salvation past, salvation present, and salvation future. Salvation past consists in having our names written in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world. Salvation present consists in the manifestation of Jesus to the soul, whereby he betroths it to himself. And salvation future consists in the eternal enjoyment of Christ, when the elect shall sit down to the marriage-supper of the Lamb, and be forever with the Lord. Now, as none will ever enjoy salvation future who have no saving interest in salvation past; in other words, as none will ever be with Christ in eternal glory whose names were not written in the book of life from all eternity; so none will enjoy salvation future, who live and die without enjoying salvation present. In other words, none will live forever with Christ in glory who are not betrothed to him in this life by the manifestations of himself to their soul.  

According to the Jewish custom, the man, at the time of betrothing, gave the bride a piece of silver before witnesses, saying to her, "Receive this piece of silver as a pledge that at such a time you shall become my spouse." And the parties then exchanged rings. This meeting of the espoused parties together, who then saw each other for the first time, is a sweet type of the first meeting of the soul with Jesus. The damsel had heard of the youth, but until then had never seen him; as seeking souls hear of Jesus by the hearing of the ear, before their eyes see him. The veil was upon her face (Ge 24:65), as the veil is upon the heart (2Co 3:15), until Jesus rends it in twain from the top to the bottom. The bridegroom gave his betrothed a piece of silver, as a pledge that all he had was hers. And thus Christ gives to the soul, whom he betroths to himself by his own manifestations, a pledge, a token, a testimony, which, in itself, is the first-fruits and assurance of eternal glory. The parties exchanged rings, as pledges of mutual affection and eternal faithfulness. And thus, when Christ reveals himself to the soul in his dying love, mutual engagements, mutual promises, mutual assurances and pledges of faithfulness and love pass between the soul and him. "One shall say, I am the Lord's, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord." At these seasons, "in the day of the King's espousals," the language of the soul is, "I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste; he brought me to the banqueting-house, and his banner over me was love."

Jeremiah 2:13

"For my people have committed two evils—they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." Jer 2:13

 

There is nothing so piercing as the remembrance of backsliding against a good and holy God. There is nothing so wounding to a tender conscience as having sinned against manifested mercy and revealed salvation. It seems almost like doing despite to the Spirit of grace; almost like trampling under foot the blood of the covenant whereby we were sanctified, and treating our best Friend worse than his very enemies treated him. And as these things are brought to mind, and laid upon the conscience with weight and power, they will sometimes sink us very low into despondency and gloom so as almost to take away our very hope.

 

But the Lord is very merciful and compassionate to those who fear his name. He regards the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their cry. He listens to the sighs and confessions of the penitent heart, and broken, contrite spirit; and thus, though he will ever abase him that is high, he will exalt him that is low. He will never give up his rightful claim to his people. If he has bought us with his precious blood, he will never allow that purchase to be annulled by the malice of Satan or by the wickedness of our own nature.

 

How striking are those words, "You have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, says the Lord." And again, "Turn, O backsliding children, says the Lord, for I am married unto you." "Return, O backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings." And shall we not answer, "Behold, we come unto you, for you are the Lord our God! Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains—truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel" (Jer 3:23).

Jeremiah 2:17

"Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when he led you in the way?" Jer 2:17

 

No man knows better, I believe, than myself, that we cannot do anything of a spiritual nature to bring ourselves near to God, but I am equally sure that we can do many things that set us very far from him. Let all the shame and guilt be ours; all the grace and glory are God's. Every drop of felt mercy, every ray of gracious hope, every sweet application of truth to the heart, every sense of saving interest, every blessed testimony, every sweet indulgence, every heavenly smile, every tender desire, and every spiritual feeling, all, all are of God. If ever my heart is softened, my spirit blessed, my soul watered, if Christ is ever felt to be precious, it is all of his grace; it is all given freely, sovereignly, without money and without price.

 

But can it be denied—I for one cannot deny it—that by our carnality, inconsistency, worldly-mindedness, negligence, ingratitude, and forsaking and forgetting the God of our mercies, we are continually bringing leanness and barrenness, deadness and darkness into our own souls? Thus we are forced to plead "Guilty, guilty!" to put our mouth in the dust, acknowledge ourselves to be vile, and confess ourselves indeed "of sinners chief, and of saints less than the least."

 

Yet thus does God, in his mysterious dealings, open up a way for his sovereign grace and mercy to visit the soul. The more we feel ourselves condemned, cut off, gashed, and wounded by a sense of sin and folly, backslidings and wanderings from God, the lower we shall lie, the more we shall put our mouth in the dust, the more freely we shall confess our baseness before him. And if the Lord should be pleased, in these solemn moments, to open our poor blind eyes to see something of the precious blood of the Lamb, to apply some sweet promise to the soul, or to bring to the heart a sense of his goodness and mercy, how sweet and suitable is that grace, as coming over all the mountains and hills of our sin and shame. Thus is the goodness of God, as it were, reflected on and by our baseness and vileness, as we see the sun sometimes shining on and reflected by a black cloud. The black cloud of our vileness but serves to heighten the glory of the rays of free grace and the bright beams of the Sun of righteousness.

Jeremiah 8:22

"Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there?" Jer 8:22

 

There is balm in Gilead, and there is a physician there. This is, and must ever be, our only hope. If there were no balm in Gilead, what could we do but lie down in despair and die? For our sins are so great, our backslidings so repeated, our minds so dark, our hearts so hard, our affections so cold, our souls so wavering and wandering, that if there were no balm in Gilead, no precious blood, no sweet promises, no sovereign grace, and if there were no physician there, no risen Jesus, no great High Priest over the house of God, what well-grounded hope could we entertain? Not a ray. Our own obedience and consistency? These are a bed too short and a covering too narrow.

 

But when there is some application of the balm in Gilead, it softens, melts, humbles, and at the same time thoroughly heals. No, this balm strengthens every nerve and sinew, heals blindness, remedies deafness, cures paralysis, makes the lame man leap as a deer and the tongue of the dumb to sing, and thus produces gospel sight, gospel hearing, gospel strength, and a gospel walk. When the spirit is melted, and the heart touched by a sense of God's goodness, mercy, and love to such base, undeserving wretches, it produces gospel obedience, aye, a humble obedience; not that proud obedience which those manifest who are trusting to their own goodness and seeking to scale the battlements of heaven by the ladder of self-righteousness, but an obedience of gratitude, love, and submission—willingly, cheerfully rendered, and therefore acceptable to God, because flowing from his own Spirit and grace. It is the application of this divine balm which purifies the heart, makes sin hateful, and Jesus precious, and not only dissolves the soul in sweet gratitude, but fills it with earnest desires to live to God's honor and glory.

 

This is the mysterious way the Lord takes to get honor to himself. As he opens up the depth of the fall, makes the burden of sin felt, and shows the sinner how his iniquities have abounded, he brings the proud heart down, and lays the head low in the dust; and as he makes him sigh and cry, grieve and groan, he applies his sovereign balm to the soul, brings the blood of sprinkling into the conscience, sheds abroad his mercy and love, and thus constrains the feet to walk in cheerful and willing obedience. This is obeying the precept from right motives, right views, right influences, under right feelings, and to right ends. This is the true Christian obedience, obedience "in the spirit and not in the letter," an obedience which glorifies God, and is attended by every fruit and grace of the Spirit.

Jeremiah 9:23

"Thus says the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glories glory in this—that he understands and knows me." Jer 9:23-24

 

So we are allowed to glory. But in what and in whom? Not in ourselves; that is forever disannulled. The Lord has purposed to pour contempt upon all human glory, that none should glory in himself, whatever he be or whatever he has. But when a man has a view of the Son of God in his beauty, in his suitability, in his heavenly grace and divine glory, then he can and may glory in the Lord. He can say, "O what a Lord there is above! How glorious is he in his excellency, in his suitability, and in his blessedness; how glorious his wisdom, his righteousness, his sanctification, and his redemption. Let my whole glory be there; let me not take to myself a single atom of it. If I am wise, let me give him the glory of being my wisdom; if righteous, let me give him the glory of being my righteousness; if I have any fruit of the Spirit, let me give him the glory of being my sanctification; if I am redeemed from death and hell, let the glory of my redemption be his." This is doing as God would have us to do, glorying in his dear Son.

 

And the Lord will bring all his people to this spot sooner or later. He will give them such views of the effects of the fall, of the misery of sin, and of their own helplessness; and will give them such gracious views of his dear Son, as shall wean them from glorying in the creature and make them glory in the Lord as all their salvation and all their desire. It may be by a long course of severe discipline, but the Lord will eventually bring all his people there; for he has determined to glorify his dear Son, and when we can thus glorify him, then we have the mind of Christ, and are doing the will of God.

Jeremiah 10:24

"O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing." — Jer 10:24

 

"Fury is not in me," says the Lord. No; there is no wrath in the bosom of God against his people. They are forever "accepted in the Beloved," and stand in him before the throne of God without spot or wrinkle. But there is displeasure against their sins; and this displeasure their kind and gracious Father makes them feel when he withdraws from them the light of his countenance, and sends his keen reproofs and sharp rebukes into their conscience. But these very "judgments" help them (Ps 119:175), for they lead to deep searchings of heart; and as the same blessed Spirit who sets home the reproof, communicates therewith repentance, they sorrow after a godly manner, and this godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of (2Co 7:10).

 

If, then, our afflictions, crosses, losses, bereavements, family troubles, church trials, and more especially if the rebukes and reproofs of God in our own conscience have been a means of humbling our proud hearts, bringing us to honest confession of, and godly sorrow for our sins and backslidings, if they have instrumentally separated us more effectually from the world, its company, its ways, its maxims, and its spirit; if they have, in the good hand of God, stirred up prayer and supplication in our hearts, led us into portions of the word of truth before hidden from view, laid us more feelingly and continually at the footstool of mercy, given us a deeper insight into the way of salvation, made mercy more dear, and grace more sweet, have these trials and afflictions been either unprofitable or unseasonable?

Jeremiah 14:9

"Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name." — Jer 14:9

 

If the Lord has ever been in our soul to manifest there a sense of his goodness and mercy, we can then make use of this as our plea, "Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us." If he has ever heard your prayer he is with you; if he has ever given you a promise he is with you; if he has ever touched your heart with his finger he is with you; if he has ever favored you with a smile he is with you. And though taking the general run of your experience he may be a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry for a night, or though even as it may seem, as if he were astonished at what you are—a mighty man that cannot save, still every token for good encourages you to cling, to cleave, to hang round him, to catch hold of his feet as the Shunamite caught Elisha by the feet, and would not be thrust away; for you cannot but feel that, with all that you are and have been, you dearly love him, and have a good hope, if not a clear testimony, that he loves you.

 

Can you not sometimes look up to him, may I not say almost look at him in the face and say, "Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you? And though my abominable sins have often made you a stranger to me, yet in my heart of hearts, in the very depths of my soul you know that I love you." And if you can look at the Lord in the face, and appeal to his heart-searching eye that you do love him, depend upon it he loves you, for the word of truth declares, "We love him because he first loved us."

Jeremiah 15:12

"Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?" Jer 15:12

 

You see that the Lord, when he is pointing out the trials his people are passing through, compares them to "iron." He does not diminish their weight; he does not at all lower their oppressive tendency. But, then, in order to administer a suitable remedy to Jeremiah's soul, he brings forward something much stronger. "Shall iron," he says, "break the northern iron and the steel?" No surely; the "northern iron and the steel" shall break through that. The common iron never can break through the northern iron, which is a metal of such a far superior nature; still less prevail against that keen well-tempered steel which can cut through everything it touches.

 

Now if your hearts are exercised with iron sorrows, temptations, trials, and perplexities, I am sure you will want the almighty power of God in your souls to cut them asunder. And God can do it. Are you a poor persecuted believer? God can cut down in a moment that enemy who is persecuting you. Are you tempted of Satan? He in a moment can cut his fiery darts asunder. Are you passing through a severe trial? By the application of some precious promise the Lord can in a moment cut the trial asunder. Are you entangled in some grievous snare that you feel and cry out under night and day, and yet are unable to extricate yourself? The Lord can in a moment, by the application of his precious word to your soul, cut that snare asunder. He has but to bring against it "the northern iron and the steel," and it is done in a moment.

 

How was it with Jeremiah? Did not he say, "Your words were found, and I did eat them; and your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart?" Why? Because keen persecutions, sharp trials, severe temptations had given him an appetite; that was the reason why the "word was found." He fell upon it as a hungry man upon a crust. It was sweet to his soul, because it brought with it a precious deliverance from the temptations and the sorrows his soul was groaning under.

 

Thus, we see that in proportion as we feel the iron nature of trials and sorrows, shall we experience "the northern iron and the steel" of God's almighty power and grace to deliver. Happy are the people that are in such a case! Happy the people that have this Lord for their manifested God!

Jeremiah 15:16

"Your words were found, and I ate them; and your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord God of hosts." Jer 15:16

 

There is a sweetness in the promises which captivates the heart; a beauty in Christ which wins the soul; a saving unction and power in the word of God, when applied, which draws forth toward it every secret and sacred affection. Can you not sometimes look up and say, "Blessed Jesus, I do love you?" And when the word of God is opened up, applied, and made sweet and precious, have you not felt sometimes as if you could kiss the sacred page, as conveying such sweetness into your soul? This is embracing a promise in love—throwing our arms round it, drawing it near to our breast, kissing it again and again with kisses of love and affection, and taking that sweet delight in it with which the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, as now all his own—at times almost lost, but now wooed and won, no more to be parted. This is rejoicing in the word of God, delighting in a blessed Jesus and in the promises which testify of, and center in him.

 

Have you not felt these sweet embracements in your soul of the truth as it is in Jesus as so precious, so suitable, so encouraging, and so adapted to every need and woe? Then you are a believer; then you are a child of God; then there is a work of grace upon your heart; then you know the truth for yourself by divine teaching and divine testimony. You may still not have had that full deliverance, that blessed revelation, that overpowering manifestation whereby all your doubts and fears have been swept away, and your soul settled in a firm enjoyment of the liberty of the gospel. You may have had it or may have had it not. But if you have this character stamped upon you that you have seen the promises afar off and been persuaded of them, and embraced them in faith, hope, and love, you have a mark of being a partaker of the faith of God's elect.

Jeremiah 17:9

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked—who can know it?" Jer 17:9

 

The sin of our fallen nature is a very mysterious thing. We read of the mystery of iniquity as well as of the mystery of godliness; and the former has lengths, depths, and breadths as well as the latter; depths which no human plumb-line ever fathomed, and lengths which no mortal measuring line ever yet measured out. Thus the way in which sin sometimes seems to sleep, and at other times to awake up with renewed strength, its active, irritable, impatient, restless nature, the many shapes and colors it wears, the filthy holes and puddles in which it grovels, the corners into which it creeps, its deceitfulness, hypocrisy, craftiness, persuasiveness, intense selfishness, utter recklessness, desperate madness, and insatiable greediness are secrets, painful secrets, only learned by bitter experience.

 

In the spiritual knowledge of these two mysteries, the mystery of sin and the mystery of salvation, all true religion consists. In the school of experience we are kept, day after day, learning and forgetting these two lessons, being never able to understand them, and yet not satisfied unless we know them, pursuing after an acquaintance with them, and finding that they still, like a rainbow, recede from us as fast as we pursue. Thus we find realized in our own souls those heavenly contradictions, those divine paradoxes, that the wiser we get, the greater fools we become (1Co 3:18); the stronger we grow, the weaker we are (2Co 12:9-10); the more we possess, the less we have (2Co 6:10); the more completely bankrupt, the more frankly forgiven (Lu 7:42); the more utterly lost, the more perfectly saved; and when most like a little child, the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:4).

Jeremiah 17:14

"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved—for you are my praise." — Jer 17:14

 

If we feel that we have ruined our own souls, that no human arm can save us, that we cannot bring salvation into our own consciences, nor of ourselves see any beauty, glory, sweetness, or suitability in the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet are striving with prayer and supplication to touch the hem of his garment, to taste the sweetness of his dying love, to feel the efficacy of his atoning blood, to be wrapped up in his glorious robe of righteousness, and to know him in the sweet manifestations of his grace, we too can say, "Save me, and I shall be saved."

 

Here is this sin! save me from it—here is this snare! break it to pieces; here is this lust! Lord, subdue it; here is this temptation! deliver me out of it; here is my proud heart! Lord, humble it; my unbelieving heart! take it away, and give me faith; give me submission to your mind and will; take me as I am with all my sin and shame and work in me everything well-pleasing in your sight, for "You are my praise."

 

If ever I have blessed you, it has been for your goodness to my soul; if ever my heart has been tuned to your praise, if ever my lips have thanked you, it has been for the riches of your grace, and the manifestations of your mercy. I am nothing, and never shall be anything but a poor guilty sinner in your eyes; but I have to praise you for all that is past, and to hope in you for all that is to come; "for you," and you alone, O Lord, "are my praise."

Jeremiah 23:6

"This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness." Jer 23:6

 

What a sweet view does this give of Jesus! We look sometimes at Christ's righteousness as distinct from Christ. Shall I use a figure? We look at the garment as distinct from the maker and wearer of the garment. We look at the righteousness so much, that we scarcely look at him who wrought out that righteousness. Now, we must not separate Jesus from his righteousness. We must not look merely at the garment, the imputed robe, and forget him that wrought it out, that puts it on, and that keeps it to this day in firm possession. But when we can see, that not only the obedience of Christ, but Christ himself—all that Jesus is—all that Jesus has, as head of his Church, as the risen Mediator, as the great High Priest over the house of God—when we can see that this God-man, Immanuel, is made unto his people righteousness, how it expands the prospect! Then we look, not merely at the robe itself, beautiful, lovely, and glorious; we look farther—we look at Him that made it. We do not look merely at the robe as distinct from him. We look at him who made that robe what it is—Jesus, who ever lives at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us. This, to my mind, is a sweet view.

 

If I sink down into creature sinfulness, shame, and guilt, and see Jesus made of God unto me righteousness, what need I more? Has God made him so? Who can unmake him so? Has God made the Son of his love, righteousness to my soul, that I may stand in him without spot, speck, or blemish? Who is to alter it? Can sin alter it? That is atoned for. Can the devil alter it? He is chained down unto the judgment of the great day. Can the world alter it? They cannot stretch forth their finger to touch one thread of that robe, to touch one lineament of the Redeemer's countenance. If he is made unto me righteousness, what more do I need? If I can find a shield, a shelter, and a refuge in him as my righteousness, what more can I need to preserve me from the charge of men or devils?

Jeremiah 29:13

"And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart." Jer 29:13

 

After the Lord has quickened our souls, for a time we often go, shall I say, blundering on, not knowing there is a Jesus. We think that the way of life is to keep God's commandments, obey the law, cleanse ourselves from sin, reform our lives, and cultivate universal holiness in thought, word, and action; and so we go, blundering and stumbling on in darkness; and all the while never get a single step forward. But when the Lord has allowed us to weary ourselves to find the door, and let us sink lower and lower into the pit of guilt and ruin, from feeling that all our attempts to extricate ourselves have only plunged us deeper and deeper, and the Spirit of God opens up to the understanding and brings into the soul some spiritual discovery of Jesus, and thus makes known that there is a Savior, a Mediator, and a way of escape—this is the grand turning-point in our lives, the first opening in the valley of Achor of the door of hope.

 

And when the soul has once seen that there is a Jesus, and once felt a measure of the power of his resurrection, it never goes to any other quarter for pardon, justification, and salvation. When the Spirit of God begins to open up with power in his conscience that there is a Jesus, that he is the only Mediator, that the Son of God has come down and taken a holy human nature into union with himself, and is now at the right hand of the Father, it is the first break of day, the first dawn of hope; and upon that bright spot does the shipwrecked soul fix his longing eyes until the Sun of righteousness arises upon it with healing in his wings. It is a great step in a man's experience to turn wholly and solely to the Lord, and renounce all creature righteousness, all forms and ceremonies as a way of salvation. It is a great mercy to turn away from them, as the shipwrecked mariner turns away from his sinking ship, and looks to the rising sun to show him some way of escape, and thus afford him some gleam of hope.

Jeremiah 30:7

"Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it—it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." —Jer 30:7

 

This "day of trouble" is when sin is laid as a heavy burden upon a man's conscience; when guilt presses him down into the dust of death, when his iniquities stare him in the face, and seem more in number than the hairs of his head; when he fears he shall be cast forever into the bottomless pit of hell, and have his portion with the hypocrites.

 

This "day of trouble" is not literally a day, a portion of time meted out by the rising or setting sun, a space of twenty-four hours. The hands of a clock, or the shadow of a dial, cannot regulate spiritual troubles. A day here means a season, be it long or short; be it a day, week, month, or year. And as the season cannot be measured in length, so the trouble cannot be measured in depth.

 

The only wise God deals out various measures of affliction to his people. All do not sink to the same depth, as all do not rise to the same height. All do not drink equally deep of the cup; yet all, each in their measure, pass through this day of trouble, wherein their fleshly religion is pulled to pieces, their self-righteousness marred, their presumptuous hopes crushed, and they brought into the state of the leper, to cry, "Unclean, unclean." Until a man has passed through this day of trouble, until he has experienced more or less of these exercises of soul, and known guilt and condemnation in his conscience; until he has struggled in this narrow pass, and had his rags of creature righteousness torn away from him, he can know nothing experimentally of the efficacy of Jesus' atoning blood, nor feel the power of Christ's resurrection.

Jeremiah 31:3

"The Lord has appeared of old unto me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love—therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you." — Jer 31:3

 

There can be no new thought in the mind of GOD. New thoughts, new feelings, new plans, new resolutions continually occur to OUR mind; for ours is but a poor, fallen, fickle, changeable nature. But God has no new thoughts, feelings, plans or resolutions; for if he had he would be a changeable Being, not one great, eternal, unchangeable 'I Am'. All his thoughts, therefore, all his plans, all his ways are like himself, eternal, infinite, unchanging, and unchangeable.

 

So it is with the love of Christ to the Church. It is eternal, unchanging, unchangeable. And why? Because he loved as God. Never let us lose sight of the glorious Deity of Jesus. He loved her in eternity as the Son of God, prior to his incarnation. That was but the fruit of his love. We can, therefore, assign no beginning to the love of Christ, for it existed when he existed, which was from eternity. Neither can we put any end to that love, for it can only end with himself; and as he had no beginning, so he has no ending. His love then is as himself, which as it knew no beginning shall know no end.

 

O what a mercy it is for those who have any gracious, experimental knowledge of the love of Christ, to believe it is from everlasting to everlasting; that no incidents of time, no storms of sin or Satan, can ever change or alter that eternal love, but that it remains now and will remain the same to all eternity!

Jeremiah 31:9

"They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them." —Jer 31:9

 

Until God is pleased to pour out upon us the spirit of grace and of supplications, we cannot worship him aright; for God is a Spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth; nor can we without this spirit offer up that spiritual sacrifice which is acceptable to him through Jesus Christ. When this spirit has been once given and kindled in a believer's breast, it never dies out. It is like the fire upon the bronze altar, which was first given by the Lord himself from heaven, and concerning which God gave this command—"The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out" (Le 6:13). This fire might sink low; it might be covered with the ashes of sacrifice, but it never was allowed to go out for lack of supply of fuel.

 

So at times it may seem to you as if there were scarcely any spirit of prayer alive in your bosom; and you may feel as destitute of a spirit of grace and of supplications as if you had never known its lively movements and actings. But you will find it drawn out from time to time by circumstances. You will be placed under peculiar trials, under which you will find no relief but at a throne of grace; or God will in tender mercy breathe again upon your soul with his own gracious Spirit, and by his quickening breath will revive, I will not say kindle, for it is not gone out, that holy fire which seemed to be buried under the ashes of corruption, that inward spirit of prayer which he gave you at regeneration, and which will never cease until it issue in everlasting praise.

 

"They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them—I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble—for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn." Jer 31:9

 

Oh how much is needed to bring the soul to its only rest and center! What trials and afflictions; what furnaces, floods, rods, and strokes, as well as smiles, promises, and gracious drawings! What pride and self to be brought out of! What love and blood to be brought unto! What lessons to learn of the dreadful evil of sin! What lessons to learn of the freeness and fullness of salvation! What sinkings in self! What risings in Christ! What guilt and condemnation on account of sin; what self-loathing and self-abasement; what distrust of self; what fears of falling; what prayers and desires to be kept; what clinging to Christ; what looking up and unto his divine Majesty, as faith views him at the right hand of the Father; what desires never more to sin against him, but to live, move, and act in the holy fear of God, do we find, more or less daily, in a living soul!

 

And whence springs all this inward experience but from the fellowship and communion which there is between Christ and the soul? "We are members," says the Apostle, "of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." As such there is a mutual participation in sorrow and joy. "He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." "He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." He can, therefore, "be touched with the feelings of our infirmities," can pity and sympathize; and thus, as we may cast upon him our sins and sorrows, when faith enables, so can he supply, out of his own fullness, that grace and strength which can bring us off eventually more than conquerors.

Jeremiah 31:12

"Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion." —Jer 31:12

 

Until the redeemed know something of the efficacy of atoning blood and have their consciences purged from guilt and filth by its application, they cannot come and sing in the height of Zion. But when they are redeemed from the hand of him who is stronger than they; when atoning blood is applied to their consciences to purge away guilt and filth; when Christ is revealed and made experimentally known; when his gospel in the hands of the Spirit becomes a word of power, and a view of the King in his beauty is granted to the believing heart, then, drawn by the cords of love and the bands of a man, they come to Zion, where the King sits enthroned in glory. It is called "the height of Zion," not only because Zion was high literally, but because the Lord of life and glory is exalted to the highest place of dignity and power. God's ancient promise was, "Behold, my servant shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high" (Isa 52:13); and the Apostle says, "therefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Php 2:9); and again, "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Eph 1:21).

 

But why do they come? It is to commune with him, to worship him in the beauty of holiness, to get words from his lips, smiles from his face, touches from his hand, and whispers from his lips. And when he is graciously pleased to speak a word to them as Prince of peace, to reveal himself to their souls in the glory of his divine Person as God-man, and to shed abroad his love in their hearts, then they can sing, and in them is the promise fulfilled, "They shall come and sing in the height of Zion."

Jeremiah 31:18

"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself." — Jer 31:18

 

The spiritual feeling of sin is indispensable to the feeling of salvation. A sense of the malady must ever precede, and prepare the soul for, a believing reception and due apprehension of the remedy. Wherever God intends to reveal his Son with power, wherever he intends to make the gospel "a joyful sound" indeed, he first makes the conscience feel and groan under the burden of sin. And sure am I that when a man is laboring under the burden of sin, he will be full of groans.

 

The Bible records hundreds of the groans of God's people under the burden of sin. "My wounds stench and are corrupt," cries one, "because of my foolishness. I am troubled—I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long" (Ps 38:5-6). "My soul," cries another, is full of troubles, and my life draws near unto the grave" (Ps 88:3). "He has led me," groans out a third, "and brought me into darkness, but not into light" (La 3:2). A living man must cry under such circumstances. He cannot carry the burden without complaining of its weight. He cannot feel the arrow sticking in his conscience without groaning under the pain. He cannot have the worm gnawing his vitals without groaning of its venomous tooth. He cannot feel that God is incensed against him without bitterly groaning that the Lord is his enemy.

 

Spiritual groaning then, is a mark of spiritual life, and is one which God recognizes as such. "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself." It shows that he has something to mourn over; something to make him groan, being burdened; that sin has been opened up to him in its hateful malignancy; that it is a trouble and distress to his soul; that he cannot roll it like a sweet morsel under his tongue, but that it is found out by the penetrating eye, and punished by the chastening hand of God.

Jeremiah 31:21

Jer 31:21 "Set up waymarks, make guideposts-set your heart toward the highway, even the way which you went-turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these your cities."

To look at the past is often a blessed encouragement for the future. If we are travelers in the way Zionward, we shall have our various waymarks. A conspicuous call, or a signal deliverance, or a gracious manifestation of Christ; a promise applied here, or a marked answer to prayer there; a special blessing under the preached word; a soft and unexpected assurance of an interest in the blood of the Lamb; a breaking in of divine light when walking in great darkness; a sweet sip of consolation in a season of sorrow and trouble; a calming down of the winds and waves without and within by, "It is I, be not afraid"-such and similar waymarks it is most blessed to be able to set up as evidences that we are in the road.

And if many who really fear God cannot set up these conspicuous waymarks, yet they are not without their testimonies equally sure, if not equally satisfying. The fear of God in a tender conscience, the spirit of grace and of supplications in their breast, their cleaving to the people of God in warm affection, their love for the truth in its purity and power, their earnest desires, their budding hopes, their anxious fears, their honesty and simplicity making them jealous over themselves lest they be deceived or deluded, their separation from the world, their humility, meekness, quietness, and general consistency often putting to shame louder profession and higher pretensions-these and similar evidences mark many as children of God who cannot read their title clear to such a privilege and such a blessing.

But whether the waymarks be high or low, shining in the sun or obscure in the dawn, the virgin of Israel is still bidden to "set them up," and to "set also her heart toward the highway, even the way by which she came."

Jeremiah 32:40

"I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." — Jer 32:40

 

As the fear of God springs up in a believing soul, and is maintained and kept alive by the influences which come out of Christ as a covenant Head, it produces, as its effects, an abiding in him. We cannot depart from him, because the fear of God is in our heart. It is therefore called "a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death." If a fountain of life, it must be fed out of him who is the life; and as it departs from the snares of death, it cleaves more fully and closely to him as these snares are broken to pieces and left behind.

 

If we examine the movements of godly fear in our hearts, we shall see that all its tendencies are toward life and the Source of life; toward hatred of sin and love of holiness; toward a desire after the enjoyment of heavenly realities, and a deadness to the things of time and sense; toward a knowledge of Christ in the manifestation of himself, and a longing to live more to his praise, to walk more in his footsteps, and to be more conformed to his suffering image.

 

Now, as none of these things can be produced but by union with Christ and abiding in him, we see how the fear of God helps forward and is needful to this abiding. For directly that the fear of God burns low in the soul, there is a gradual withdrawing from, and a sensible declining of this abiding in Christ.

Jeremiah 32:41

"Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good." Jer 32:41

 

God rejoices as much in saving your soul as you can rejoice in your soul being saved. Say I "as much?" His joy is infinite, and yours is finite; his the joy of God, and yours but the joy of man. Do you believe that God rejoices to save, delights in saving? Why else would he have given his dear Son? Do the angels rejoice over repenting sinners? Is there no joy then in the bosom of God to save a sinner too? How this takes us up, as it were, into the very realms of bliss, and reveals to us the wondrous character of God in his Trinity of persons and Unity of essence, that there is a rejoicing in the salvation of the Church, so that God himself, so to speak, is filled with eternal joy in the salvation of his people.

 

When his dear Son offered himself as a sacrifice for sin, and thus put away the transgressions and iniquities of the Church by his own blood-shedding and death, overcame death and hell, and washed us in his blood from all our filth and guilt and shame, God, so to speak; rejoiced with infinite joy in the completion of the work of his dear Son. It was the fulfillment of his eternal purposes of wisdom and grace. It was the manifestation of his glory to men and angels. It was the triumph of good over evil, of holiness over sin, of mercy over judgment, of love over enmity, of wisdom over deceit, of the counsels of God over the devices of man, and, above all, of the Son of God in his weakness over Satan in his might. It was peopling heaven with an innumerable multitude of saints by whom eternal anthems of praise should be sung to God and the Lamb. Thus we may see how the God of heaven even now rejoices with holy joy over every one whom he brings to the enjoyment of a salvation so free, so great, so glorious.

Jeremiah 45:5

"And do you seek you great things for yourself? seek them not." — Jer 45:5

 

Whatever schemes and projects the Lord's people may devise that they may prosper and get on in the world, he rarely allows their plans to thrive. He knows well to what consequences it would lead—that this ivy creeping round the stem would, as it were, suffocate and strangle the tree. The more that worldly goods increase, the more the heart is fixed upon them; and the more the affections are set upon idols, the more is the heart drawn away from the Lord. He will not allow his people to have their portion here below. He, therefore, says to them in his providence, as well as in his word, "Seek them not."

 

But you will perhaps say, "What are we then to seek?" I will tell you in one word—REALITIES.

 

What are these great things that you are seeking after in 'religion'? Could you see them in their right light, you would see that they are but shadows. You feel, for instance, your deficiency in gift in public when you are called upon to pray, or in private when you converse with those who possess readier speech, and you want what are commonly called gifts, such as a greater fluency of utterance, more ability to quote Scripture, and a more abundant variety of expressions, so as to make a deeper impression on the hearers—your real desire being that you might stand higher in their estimation.

But what would these gifts, if you had them to the fullest extent, so that men might almost worship you for them, do for you when you shall be called upon to lie upon a death-bed—when eternity is in view, and your soul has to deal with God only? You will desire no gifts then. Grace will be the only thing which can do you any good.

"Your life will I give unto you for a prey in all places where you go." Jer 45:5

 

There is a life given to the elect when the blessed Spirit quickens their souls—a life eternal, communicated to them out of the fullness of the Son of God. This life is a personal, individual life; and thus there seems to be a sweetness contained in the expression, "your life." "Your life will I give unto you for a prey." This life which is treasured up in the fullness of Christ is breathed into the soul in the appointed time by the Holy Spirit, is kept alive there by his almighty power, and will burn brighter and brighter in the realms of endless day.

 

But we may observe, from the expression made use of in the text, that this life which is given to the child of God, is given to him in a peculiar way. "Your life will I give unto you for a prey." The word "prey" points out that this life is an object of attack. We hear of "beasts of prey," and of "birds of prey," and the expression implies a carnivorous animal. Thus the words, "Your life will I give unto you for a prey," imply that there are ravenous beasts that are continually seeking to devour this life, voracious enemies upon the watch, who are eager to prey upon this life, which God the Holy Spirit has kindled in the soul. How accurately and how experimentally do these words describe the inward kingdom of God! Eternal life is given by God; and kept by him when given; preserved by his power from ever being extinguished. And yet preserved by a perpetual miracle, like a burning lamp set afloat upon the waves of the sea; or, to use a figure that I have somewhere seen, like a lighted candle carried over a hill in the midst of a gale of wind.

 

Thus, "our life is given us for a prey;" and the power, faithfulness, and wisdom of God are manifested in keeping this life unhurt amid all its enemies. As Daniel was preserved in the den of lions; and as the three men were preserved in the burning fiery furnace; so the life of God is preserved in the soul, in the midst of lions, as David says, "My soul is among lions" (Ps 57:4), and amid the fires, "Glorify you the Lord in the fires" (Isa 24:15). So that the life of the child of God is one continual conflict between faith and unbelief, between enmity and love, between the grace of God and the rebellion of the carnal mind, between the sinkings of the drooping spirit and the liftings-up of the light of God's countenance.

 

"Behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, says the Lord." Jer 45:5

 

The Lord may be said spiritually to "bring evil upon all flesh," when he lays trouble and calamity upon the flesh, and upon all that the flesh loves. The blow falls upon the fruits of the flesh, when it cuts down fleshly religion, and roots up false hopes, vain confidence, and self-dependence. The effect of these strokes is to lay the soul poor and needy at the footstool of mercy; and as the Holy Spirit enlightens the eyes to see, quickens the soul to feel, and raises up power to ask, there is now a seeking after real things—substance as opposed to shadows. Thus pardon, mercy, the testimony of God in the soul, the lifting up of the light of his countenance, the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus upon the conscience, with all the other spiritual blessings revealed in the gospel, are sought after, valued, and prized.

 

It is not enough now that they are heard from a minister, assented to in the judgment, or received on the testimony of others. They are only now so far enjoyed as they are tasted, felt, and handled in the depths of the heart. I believe I can say for myself until evil came upon me in this way, chiefly through a long illness, (though if I have life now, I had it before that visitation), yet until trouble came, and I was brought low in body and soul, I was never seeking as I have done since, the visitations and manifestations of the Lord's favor. Deceived by Satan and my own heart, I was seeking rather to make myself wise in the letter, than to feel the power of vital godliness in my soul. But ever since then, amid many discouragements, and with many alternations and changes, I have felt led, as I never knew before, or at least not from the same pressing sense of need, to seek after the visitations and manifestations of the Lord's favor; the dew of his Spirit, the application of his atoning blood, and the inward testimonies of his love and grace. Nor can I rest for salvation upon anything else. I am not, therefore, speaking at a peradventure; I know the ground, for I have traveled it; I have lined it with laborious footsteps; and therefore having tracked it out, I speak in my measure, that which I know; and testify that which I feel.

 

When the Lord, then, thus brings evil upon our flesh, it is not to sweep away any real religion that we may possess. It is to sweep away our false religion. This winnowing fan is to fan away the chaff, and leave the pure grain. This keen knife of the heavenly Surgeon is only to cut away the disease and unhealthy tumors, and leave the sound parts uninjured. When the Lord brings distress into the soul, it is not to destroy any one grace that has been communicated by the blessed Spirit, but to fulfill that word, "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up." He puts his "vessels of gold and silver" into the furnace to take away their dross, that they may be "sanctified, and fit for the Master's use." For he has chosen his Zion in the furnace of affliction; and he "sits as a refiner and purifier of silver, that he may purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness" (Mal 3:3).

Jeremiah 50:5

"They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten." Jer 50:5

 

Zion is the seat of all gospel blessings. In it is laid "the precious corner-stone" (Isa 28:16); in it is "placed salvation for Israel" (Isa 46:13); the Lamb of God stands upon it (Re 14:1); mercy, redemption, pardon, comfort, strength, deliverance, and glory come out of it. In turning the face then Zionwards, is implied the seeking of gospel blessings. The redeemed are therefore said "to seek the Lord their God," who is only to be found in Zion, his dwelling-place, and where praise waits for him (Ps 65:1). But they ask the way to Zion with their faces there in no light and trifling spirit, and in no presumption that they shall ever arrive there. They have to ask the way step by step, often doubting and fearing whether they be in the way. Having been so often deceived and deluded, they dare no more trust their own hearts; but have to beg of the Lord to show them every inch of the road. They can no longer blindly follow every presumptuous guide, but have to cry to the Lord himself to teach and lead and quicken them in the way.

And as they go, they weep. They mourn over their base backslidings, over the many evils they have committed, over the levity of mind which they have indulged, over the worldliness of spirit, the pride, presumption, hypocrisy, carnality, carelessness, and obstinacy of their heart. They go and weep with a broken heart and softened spirit; not resting in their tears as evidences, but seeking the Lord their God; seeking the secret manifestations of his mercy, the visitations of his favor, the "lifting up of the light of his countenance;" seeking after a revelation of the love of Jesus; to know him by a spiritual discovery of himself. Being thus minded, they seek not to establish their own righteousness; they seek not the applause of the world; they seek not the good opinion of professors; they seek not the smiles of saints; they seek not to make themselves Christians by their own exertions. But "they seek the Lord their God," seek his face day and night, seek his favor, seek his mercy, seek his grace, seek his love, seek his glory, seek the sweet visitations of his presence and power, seek him wrestling with him until they find him to be their covenant God, who heals all their backslidings.

"They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces toward it, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten." Jer 50:5

 

"Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord." Does this imply any power in the creature to join himself to the Lord? No; but it implies this—that when the Lord unites us to himself, then we unite ourselves to him; when the Lord brings the believer into a manifested union with himself, then there is a leaping forth of the soul, a going forth of the affections, a cleaving to him with purpose of heart, a believing in him with all the powers of the mind, and a solemn renunciation, a casting aside, a trampling under foot, a rejection of everything but that which stands in the power of God, as made known to the soul by the Holy Spirit.

 

It is not spoken in a presumptuous way—"Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord." It does not indicate any bold presumptuous claim upon the Lord, as if being now on the road to Zion, and being possessed of certain evidences, they could claim the inheritance, and, as it were, rush in, and lay hold of gospel blessings; but it points out the actings of living faith in the soul, which goes forth, when raised up and drawn out by the blessed Spirit.

 

The vain confidence and rash forwardness of those who are at ease in Zion is a very different thing from the meek faith of those who are going and weeping, asking the way to Zion with their faces there, whose hearts are melted by the Spirit into contrition, who renounce everything but Christ and him crucified, and desire to feel and taste the sweet manifestation of the love of a dying Lord. These, without presumption or bold familiarity, can say, "Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord," as feeling in their souls the actings of that living faith, whereby they cleave to and lean upon him, as the only prop between them and hell.

Jeremiah 50:6

"My people have been lost sheep." Jer 50:6

 

When God the Holy Spirit takes a soul in hand, just as the fingers of a man's hand wrote a sentence of condemnation upon the wall of the palace of the king of Babylon, so does the blessed Spirit write the word "lost" upon the conscience of every vessel of mercy; and when he has written this word with power on their consciences, they carry it about with them branded as it were in letters of fire, in such a manner that the impression is never to be erased, until it is blotted out by the atoning blood of the Mediator.

 

And thus in the teachings of the Holy Spirit in the consciences of God's family, "lost, lost, lost" is written on their heart; "lost, lost, lost" is the cry of their lips; "lost, lost, lost" is the deep feeling of their soul. And none was ever found who had not the feeling lost, written more or less deeply upon his heart. None was ever gathered into the arms of the heavenly Shepherd; sought out upon the mountains and the hills, laid upon his shoulders, and brought home with rejoicing; none was ever brought into a spiritual acquaintance with Jesus, so as to enjoy communion with him, who had not sighed and groaned and cried under a sense of his lost state, as a guilty sinner before God.

 

Now when the soul has been taught by the Holy Spirit, to feel as well as to see and know itself to be without strength to deliver itself from the wrath to come, and is in consequence sunk down into despondency and dismay, then is the time when the Holy Spirit usually gives it some discovery of the mercy of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We find this sweetly set forth in that remarkable chapter, Ezekiel 16. The vessel of mercy is there delineated under the figure of a new-born babe, abandoned by its mother, and "cast out in the open field, to the loathing of its person in the day that it was born." As unpitied, as abandoned, as polluted, as helpless, as perishing, as wretched an outcast is the quickened soul. But it is not left to perish. "When I passed by you," says the loving Redeemer, "and looked upon you, behold, your time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over you" (the sign of espousal, Ru 3:9), "and covered your nakedness—yes, I swore unto you, and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine."

Jeremiah 50:20

"In those days, and in that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found—for I will pardon them whom I reserve." Jer 50:20

 

Some have feared lest in the great day their sins should be brought to light, and they put to shame by the exposure of their crimes to open view. But that will not be the case with the dear family of God. We read indeed that "many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;" and while some awake "to everlasting life," others will awake "to shame and everlasting contempt," because their sins will be remembered and brought against them as evidences of their just condemnation. But the wise, who "shall shine as the brightness of the skies," will rise to glory and honor and immortality, and not one of their sins will be remembered, charged, or brought against them. They will stand arrayed in Christ's perfect righteousness and washed in his blood, and will appear before the throne of God without spot or blemish.

 

We can scarcely bear the recollection of our sins now. But what would become of us if the spirit of one unburied sin could flit before our eyes in the day when the Lord makes up his jewels? If any one sin of the Lamb's wife could be remembered or brought against her, where would be the voice which John heard in Revelation, as "the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigns?" Now what was this voice? "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white—for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Re 19:7-8).

 

But suppose that any of the past transgressions of the Lamb's wife could be brought against her on that marriage day, any one instance of unfaithfulness to her plighted troth, would it not be sufficient to prevent the marriage, mar the wedding supper, and drive the bride away for very shame? No, there is no truth in God's word more certain than the complete forgiveness of sins, and the presentation of the Church to Christ at the great day faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy.

Lamentations 3:26

"It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." La 3:26

 

The Lord does not bring his poor and needy children to a throne of grace, and send them away as soon as they have come. But his purpose is, to show them deeply what they are, to make them value his favors, to sink them lower and lower in self, that they may rise higher and higher in Christ, to "teach them to profit" (as the Scripture speaks), to write his laws upon their hearts in lines of the Spirit's drawing, in deep lines, "engraved with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever;" not characters traced out in the sand, to be washed out by the rising tide, or effaced by the wind, but in characters as permanent as the soul itself.

 

The work of the Spirit in the hearts of the redeemed is radical work, work that goes to the very bottom; nothing flimsy, nothing superficial, nothing which can be effaced and obliterated springs from him, but that which shall have an abiding effect—that which shall last for eternity. The Lord is fitting his people for eternity, and therefore his work in them is thorough work; it goes right through them; it leaves nothing covered up and masked over, but turns all up from the very bottom, "discovering the foundation unto the neck" (Hab 3:13), and doing in a man spiritually what the Lord threatened to do in Jerusalem literally, "I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipes a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down" (2Ki 21:13).

 

Therefore he does not answer the prayers of his children immediately when they come to his throne of mercy and grace, but rather he deepens those convictions that he has implanted; he makes the burdens heavier that he has put upon their back; he hides himself instead of discovering himself, and draws back further instead of coming nearer. Now this is intended to make them wait with greater earnestness, with more unreserved simplicity, with more absolute dependence upon him and him alone to communicate the blessing, with greater separation of heart from all the strength of the creature, with a firmer resolution in the soul to cast away all its own righteousness, and to hang solely and wholly upon the Spirit's teachings, and Jesus' sweet revelation of himself.

Lamentations 3:39

"Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord." — La 3:39-40

 

I believe in my conscience there are thousands of professors who have never known in the whole course of their religious profession what it is to have "examined and tested their ways;" to have been put into the balances and weighed in the scales of divine justice; or to have stood cast down and condemned in their own feelings before God as the heart-searching Jehovah. From such a trying test, from such an unerring touchstone they have ever shrunk. And why? Because they have an inward consciousness that their religion will not bear a strict and scrutinizing examination.

 

Like the deceitful tradesman, who allures his customers into a dark corner of his shop, in order to elude detection when he spreads his flimsy, made-up goods before them, so those who have an inward consciousness that their religion is not of heavenly origin, shun the light. As the Lord says, "Every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved; but he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God."

Now if you know nothing of having from time to time your ways searched and tested by God's word, or if you rise up with bitterness against an experimental, heart-searching ministry that would test them for you, it shows that there is some rotten spot in you—something that you dare not bring to the light. The candle of the Lord has not searched the hidden secrets of your heart; nor have you cried with David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  

"Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins?" La 3:39