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APRIL 21.-If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.—1 John ii. 1.
In the glass of God's righteous law, we see what an unholy and unrighteous thing sin is; it is hateful in the eyes of a pure God; has separated between God and the sinner, and tends to his eternal destruction. The gospel in no wise renders sin less odious to God, less heinous in his sight; far from it. Yea, rather, tt paints sin in the blackest colours, and shows its deepest malignancy, by the gracious method of its atonement. View the holy Lamb suffering for sin on the cross; see the streaming blood, and hear his direful agonies on account of sin; and say, 0 believer, is sin a little matter, a trifling thing? Learn daily sin's evil, by its remedy; sin's poison, by its antidote; the hell it deserved, by the person who redeemed.
And ever, O my soul, ever hold fast this as a sacred truth, though God loves thy person in Christ, yet he hates thy sins; though reconciled to thy soul, yet he never can be reconciled to sin; though at peace with thee, through the blood of the cross, yet ever at enmity against thy sins. Hence, the beloved disciple declares, "These things write I unto you, little children, that ye sin not.” Beware of sin as the worst evil, your most deadly foe; strive against, oppose, resist it, in the power of the Spirit
, as your greatest enemy, and most hateful to your best Friend.
But, if any man sin, (for none are perfectly free from sin in their nature, nor exempt from it in their practice,) what then? must he lie down and despair? No: “We have an Advocate with the Father;" Jesus Christ pleads the cause of sinners, though he is not an advocate for sin; for he is "the righteous." Therefore, he doth not deny the charge, that we are sinners, he extenuates none of our sins, but owns every accusation brought into court against us, by a perfect law and strict justice, with every aggravating circumstance which can be urged. But against all charged upon us, he pleads his own righteous work. Have his people sinned? his blood hath atoned. Have they contracted guilt? he hath suffered the punishment. Have they deserved the curse of the law? he has borne it for them. Have they deserved hell? he has opened the kingdom of heaven. Are they unrighteous ? he hath fulfilled the law for them, and clothes them with his perfect righteousness. Therefore he pleads, that sin may not be imputed to them; but that pardon of sin, and peace of conscience, may be bestowed on them. Thus saith our dear Lord, "I will not leave you comfortless,” John xiv. 18.
APRIL 22.-The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.-Prov. xiii. 4.
In the busy scenes of life, in the awful moments of death, the formal professor, as well as the profligate and profane, will desire to escape misery and woe, and enjoy heaven and happiness. But alas ! how vain and fruitless are such desires ! If these may be called good desires, " the way to hell is paved with them,” says a father of the church. But in this the wisdom of the children of God is manifested. They are diligent in the use of such means, which, through grace, will be crowned with a blessed end. They cannot rest in desiring, but in possessing ; not in wishing, but enjoying. Their souls want continual supplies of food from Jesus, support from his promises, nourishment from his word and ordinances, and life from his Spirit. And as their desires are quickened, their diligence is drawn out after these things.
Truth and wisdom declare, they shall not barely be kept from starving; just preserved alive, like Pharaoh's lean kine; but shall be fed and nourished. Yea, like healthy sheep, in rich pastures, they shall grow fat. "The soul of the diligent shall be made fat." Here is encouragement for diligence; a spur to activity. Here is the promise of thy Lord. Where is thy faith? Doth thy soul decline, instead of growing strong? Do lusts and corruptions gain ground ? Doth the love of the world get the ascendency over the love of the Father in thine heart? Is the edge of thy spiritual appetite palled ? canst thou not feed, nor feast, on the rich repast of Jesus' redeeming love, as heretofore? Hast thou not reason to charge thyself with sloth and indolence ? Hast thou not been sleeping on thy bed of ease, instead of seeking the food of thy soul? indulging thy perishing body, instead of using means for feasting thy im. mortal spirit? If so, the testimony of thy conscience convicts thee that this is not right; thou oughtest to take shame, humble thyself, and call upon the Spirit to quicken thee. Though saved in Jesus, with an everlasting salvation, yet thou art called to "give all dili. gence to make thy calling and election sure.” In this way the Lord will nourish souls in love, and make them thrive in the comforts of his grace. Consider, all are busy and active around thee; Satan to tempt, the world to insnare, and thy corruptions to betray thee. Remember, the eyes of thy Lord are ever upon thee, to see how thou actest thy part. Yea, more, "according to his riches in glory, to strengthen thee with might, by his Spirit, in the inner man,” Eph. iii. 16.
APRIL 23.-Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, &c.—1 Tim. iii. 16.
The truths of the gospel are, undoubtedly, great mysteries to carnal reason. We have, naturally, no ideas of their existence; but being plainly revealed by the Spirit of truth, they cease to be hid from our knowledge. They are no longer secret mysteries, as to their matter, but plain and open truths, to faith. True, the manner of their existence is incomprehensible to
So they will ever remain mysteries to us. Therefore, the sons of natural pride and human ignorance reject and disbelieve them. But the children of
wisdom and humility esteem the whole mystery of
What the Lord hath taught in his word, we receive as the food of our souls. This is our simple answer to the god of this world, and to the wise disputer of this age. We cannot comprehend how God dwelt in flesh, but we are fully assured he did. We have the fullest proof of it in his word; and his word is truth. And it is the very life of our souls, and the joy of our hearts, to believe our God. Why God dwelt in flesh, and the glorious ends he hath accomplished hereby, we know. Of this also we are perfectly assured. We believe it from the same infallible testimony. To the faith of this, we have the inward witness of the Spirit also. God known in the flesh, beheld in human form, viewed in our nature, is the very essence of our faith; we now partake its blessings, and experience its comforts. Hence springs the assured pardon of all our sins, the acceptance of our persons, the sanctification of our souls, and sure and certain hope of eternal life and glory. All this is by free promise, according to the purpose and decree of the everlasting covenant of grace, to the glory of the ever-blessed Trinity, and to the comfort and salvation of us lost sinners. Thus saints are called into one body, by one Spirit; have one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one atonement, one righteousness, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in them all, Eph. iv. 4-6.
APRIL 24.--I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.—1 Cor. ix. 27.
The neglect of this brings on leanness of soul. If this enemy gains ground, it is alarming; if he prevails, it causes mourning; but when he is kept low, and supplies are cut off, his power is weakened, and victory over him is easily gained. Such are the sensitive powers, carnal affections, and sinful inclinations which compose part of our present frame, the body; a body of sin and death. To gratify and fulfil them is very pleasing and delightful to nature and sense. But how awfully subversive of the comforts of faith, the peace of the mind, and the joy of the soul, thy own sad experience, O disciple, hath proved. Nor can it be otherwise. Let us not deceive ourselves. We cannot indulge and pamper the life of the flesh, but to the hurt and injury of the life of the soul. There is an irreconcilable enmity between the flesh and the spirit, the old man and the new. This variance and strife will ever subsist, while we are in the body. It is the Lord's sovereign will, to leave the Canaanites still in the land, and to drive them out by little and little. For "behold, a King shall reign in righteousness,” Isa. xxxii. 1. This is our beloved Jesus. Here is the exercise of faith in him, the touchstone of our love, and the proof of our allegiance to him, in striving daily for the mastery, to conflict with and fight against every inordinate affection and corrupt lust of our fallen, sinful nature, and to keep them under, and bring them into subjection to him. It is hard work to fight with an enemy, that is part of one's self; but Jesus' banner hath this motto, Deny thyself; take up thy cross daily, and follow me.” Though the work is ours, yet thine, O Jesus, is the power.
Faith in Jesus not only accepts his imputed righteousness for justification, but has also a lively dependence on Christ for every supply of his Spirit for further sanctification. It leaves not the soul in a lazy, languid state, but causes it to aspire after greater delight in and