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words, and went upwards to the throne in prayers | impossibilities would become easy. Their fewand supplications continually. They remembered ness, and their lack of strength, would prove no that Jesus had said, “ Ask, and ye shall receive,' bar at all to the victorious issue of their labours. and had taught the doctrine that men ought When an angel came and fought for Judah, in always to pray and not to faint.' They acted days of Hezekiah, an hundred and eighty-five accordingly with all their hearts. Not from their thousand men fell in one night before him. If, closets alone did their supplications ascend. Jesus then, not an angel, however mighty, but the unhad said, “ If two of you shall agree on earth as created and Eternal Spirit himself, were on their touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be side, and wrought with them and for them, what done for them of my Father which is in heaven. enemies had they to dread? What obstacles For where two or three are gathered together in could stop their progress? What possible commy name, there am I in the midst of them. For bination of hostile powers could hinder them from this reason they frequented their upper room, and, the triumphant execution of the errand on which with united voice, and one accord, sent up their they were to go forth? And had they not a petitions. O it is pleasing to the Lord when promise that the Spirit should be given? Such his people thus sue him, and press him hard! a promise they had. To that promise they now Did he not confer a glorious title on Jacob as clung, and for its fulfilment they sued at the the reward of his bold importunity and wrest- throne of grace. ling? Did he not signify his approval of the The disciples of old, then, had a promise of the unsubdued and indomitable urgency of the Spirit. Is there no such promise to the church woman of Canaan by granting all that she asked, now? Assuredly, the grace, that was formerly and, over and above, pronouncing a memorable required by the church, is necessary to it still. eulogy upon her ? And does not the language, We have a great work to do. We, too, like in which the command to pray is couched, imply, Christ's followers in primitive days, are called to that he requires and expects us to be importu- contend for and to propagate the faith. We must nate, to adopt every plan which a holy ingenuity resist the devil, renounce the world, and display can suggest, and, if we may say so, to leave no our banner for the vindication and advancement stone unturned, to carry our point? Ask, and of the gospel. To ministers now as of old, the ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, care of souls is committed, and the duty of seekand it shall be opened unto you.'
ing their salvation. What then? Is there less The infant church had a great work before it. inherent weakness among Christians than was It was about to enter on the duty of evangelizing wont to be? Have we more sufficiency than the world, and holding forth the word of life to Peter and John, than Stephen, Apollos, and Paul all nations. The apostles and their associates had? Can we of ourselves perform duties which could not look forward to what they had to do, were too much for them, and by our own strength without a deep sense that their success was en- accomplish objects, which they accomplished only tirely dependent upon the power and grace of by the power of the Holy Ghost? The need is God. They could not fail to discern and feel great as ever. Without Christ-without that the utter disproportion between that which was grace of Christ, which it is the Spirit's office to to be achieved, and the ability of the selected impart—we can do nothing. If the church, instruments. How were they, that feeble and then, has brought her need of grace down the timid band, to encounter the storm of opposition stream of time along with her in all its magniwith which the enterprise, on which they were tude, what has become of the promise of grace ? soon to go out, was sure to be received? And Has she left it behind? Was a fixed and abiding if there was no hope of their being equal to the need provided for merely by a passing and temshock of such opposition, how much less reason porary promise ? Not so. The way of the Lord was there to cherish hope of bringing the enter- with his people lies open to no such objections. prize itself to a prosperous conclusion? They, The dispensation under which we live is the disa few obscure and terror-stricken fishermen, pensation of the Spirit. When Jesus said, 'Lo, haunting an upper-room for fear of the Jews, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the were they to go and attack Satan in his strong- world,' he put the stamp of perpetuity upon the holds ? Yes, it was their duty. And, under a promise of the Spirit. feeling of their total insufficiency, they were now in the continual exercise of prayer and supplication for the pouring out of the Holy Ghost. If God gave his Spirit, difficulties would disappear,
• In the wisdom of God. The apostle either
refers to the wisdom or science which treats of · For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world God, and which is called theology, or to that wise
by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the plan according to which God conducts the adminfoolishness of preaching to save them that be- istration of sublunary things. If the former be his liece,' 1 Cor. i. 21.
meaning, it is as if he had said_after that, in its The most excellent of all kinds of knowledge is theology, the world by wisdom knew not God.' the knowledge of God. The knowledge of nature And, if the latter be his meaning, we may underis good.
It is not, however, so good as the know- stand him as saying that God, in the exercise of ledge of nature's Author. Man is an important his wisdom, let the world alone for a while, withobject of knowledge; but the wonderful Being holding his revelation in order that it might be who created man is infinitely more so. The laws seen whether men could do without it; and that and qualities of matter and of mind are most the issue of the experiment was to show that worthy to be explored; but a still more advan- human wisdom was an erring guide, that could not tageous study is that which relates to the purposes lead to the knowledge of God. Yes, God “made and attributes of him from whom all things pro- foolish the wisdom of this world.' He put it ceed, by whose decree all laws are fixed, and by upon its trial, and showed it to be, in spiritual whose hand all qualities are bestowed.
things, but weakness and folly. This inestimable knowledge we cannot acquire In two ways does the apostle subject the for ourselves. However sagacious we may be, wisdom of the world to disparagement. First however powerful the force of our genius, and by showing how unavailing it is in the discovery however great our industry and perseverance, of the knowledge of God. And, secondly, by exwe cannot search it out. Human wit and toil alting above it the foolishness of preaching. What may and do create and enrich other sciences, but an affront to wisdom, when foolishness succeeds here they are baffled. Time was when they where it has failed! were left to try what they could do. God gave "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching opportunity for man's reason to do its utmost. to save them that believe. The wisdom of the Before Christ came, no gospel was preached world had been tried and found wanting. In that among the Gentiles.
The nations were not dis- emergency it pleased God to interpose. It was turbed with any message from heaven. Free his will that the saving knowledge of himself scope was allowed them to discover the truth, if should be communicated; and when that could they were able. If it was in them by searching not be through the wisdom of the world, he to find out God, no hinderance was cast in their conveyed it by an instrumentality of his own. way. What, then, was the result? The words He appointed the preaching of the cross. He before us announce it: 'the world by wisdom made that his ordinance for saving souls. knew not God.' All the wisdom that the world The preaching of the cross may be contemned. possessed was found ineffectual. Egypt, and It was contemned of old. The proud Jews and Greece, and Rome, had brought their talent and the conceited Greeks could not suffer it. To the philosophy to the task in vain. Their know- former it was a stumbling-block, and to the latter ledge was extensive on many other matters, but it was foolishness. It may still be contemned. here all was ignorance and darkness. Much as Doubtless the Jews and Greeks have successors the world by its wisdom unquestionably knew, in our day, inheritors of their pride and self-sufit did not know God. The facts and circum- ficiency, who do contemn it. But what of that? stances regarding him, which the world had Their contempt does not deprive it of its characguessed at, were too few, and too limited, and too ter as the ordinance of God, not of the might and vague, to serve the end of a manifestation of God. efficacy with which God has endowed it. The knowledge of them was not the knowledge There is a terrible saying in the context. The of Him.
preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. It is true, then, that the preaching of It is an imperative and most urgent duty to the cross is an object of ridicule. It is true that observe, with anxious care, the rules, to adhere the great theme of Christ and him crucified is set to and maintain the principles, to acquire and at nought; and that they who expatiate upon it as cherish the feelings and habits, of an exact involving the glory of God and the salvation of and unblemished morality. And it is unscripman are despised. But who are the scorners ? tural and dangerous for any to busy themselves They are the children of perdition. One of the exclusively with points of belief, and to go upon marks by which unconverted men may be distin- the notion that they are thereby sufficiently proguished is, that they see not the divine excellency viding for the uprightness and purity of their of the cross. They can understand when they conduct. Their error resembles that of him who are told that Jesus was persecuted, and cruelly, should content himself with putting the seed into and wickedly slain; and they may comprehend the soil, and deem it unnecessary to do anything the contrary, when we say that law was magni- thereafter for the tender plant that sprang from fied, that the demands of justice were satisfied, it. Faith is the powerful instrument which God and a righteous debt was paid, by his sufferings has appointed for purifying the heart; but let no and death; but when we tell them that both man, on that account, heedlessly consign his heart, these views are true, that Jesus died both justly if we may 90 speak, to the charge of his faith, as and unjustly; against law, and yet according to though it did not devolve upon him to use the it; we announce a mystery which the world instrument, and to watch, with continual solicireckons foolishness. And the world likes not the tude, over its operation. connection which the gospel propounds between The second injunction is, receive with meekthe blood that was shed on Calvary and the sal-ness the engrafted word, which is able to save vation of men's souls. It seems foolish to ascribe your souls. Receive the word.' Do not turn a it to the virtue and preciousness of that blood, deaf ear to the word. Throw open all the avenues that Abel, and Noah, and Abraham, and Jacob, of the mind for its admission. Cordially welcome and Moses, and David, and Job, and Daniel, and it into your hearts. Study the word. Mark Nehemiah, with the rest of the godly who were well its doctrines, its lessons, its warnings, its before the day of Christ, as well as those that precepts. Obey the word. Do not question its have since fallen asleep, are now reposing in para- authority or its truth. Confide in its wisdom, dise, and awaiting a blissful resurrection. The and yield yourselves to its guidance. spiritual glory of the cross is hid from them that Receive the word—the word of God. Shall perish, and they think it exaggeration and folly God speak, and shall the creatures he has made, to discourse of it as the preachers of the truth are and endowed with the faculties of hearing, underaccustomed to do.
standing, believing, and obeying, pay no regard? Shall God give forth his word, shall he send it
out in quest of hearts to dwell in, and rule over; FIRST DAY.-EVENING.
and shall the access to our hearts be obstructed,
shall our hearts be closed against it? Shall Wherefore, lay apart all filthiness, and super- men tell him that their hearts are pre-occupied, fluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness that they have no room, and that therefore they the ingrafted word, which is able to save your can give his word no entertainment? Yes, souls,' James i. 21.
this is what many must say, if they told the Two weighty injunctions are embraced in these truth! There are many who do not receive the words. The first is, “lay apart all filthiness and word of God. And the reason of their not superfluity of naughtiness. That is to say, re-receiving it is, that another word, which they nounce and discard all the lusts of the flesh, the love better, is already in possession of their vile propensities of a fallen nature, in all their hearts. What is that other word! It is the forms and manifestations. "Lay apart all filthi- word of an arch-deceiver. It is the word of one ness; cast it aside as a garment that is spotted who was a liar from the beginning. It is, suband loathsome; banish from the mind all impure stantially, the very word which, by the arts of him conceptions; watch against the rise and outbreak from whom it came, supplanted the living word of lawless desires. Lay apart' also the super- of Jehovah in the hearts of our progenitors in fluity of naughtiness,' in other words, the over- paradise! There are the two opposing words of flowings of wickedness. Licentious excesses are the God of heaven, and the god of this world
. altogether scandalous and abominable on the part All men receive, and have in their hearts, either of persons pretending to be Christians.
the one or the other. In consequence of our
depravity, we naturally prefer the word of the one that believeth. Herein lies a distinguishing wicked one—that word which says we shall not excellency of God's word. The word of man surely die, although we sin against the Lord; may communicate knowledge—much valuable which speaks peace, peace, when there is no knowledge; but saving knowledge can be derived peace, and proclaims peace and safety, when des- only from the word of God. This gives it a truction is at the door. God demands a recep- surpassing preciousness, and invests it with a tion for his word: he requires that our sinful and peculiar and paramount claim to the cordial and infatuated preference for the word of the father eager consideration of all men. This was the of lies should be abandoned, and that his word be ground of Paul's encomium on Timothy, his son welcomed and obeyed—be allowed to have free in the faith—' from a child thou hast known the course and be glorified!
holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise It is the ingrafted word' that we are required unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ to receive. The meaning is that the word must Jesus.' be fixed in our souls, as the graft is fixed in the stock of a tree. The word may be in us theoretically, historically; it may be in us as
SECOND DAY.—MORNING. the doctrine of Mahomet is in the Christian who
"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? has acquainted himself with the contents of the Koran, or as the inventions of the Shasters of
By taking heed thereto according to thy word,
Psal. cxix. 9. Hindostan are in the missionary who spends his life in refuting them; but something different is DIRECTION is here given how to lead a holy life. necessary; it must be in us practically and A 'young man’ is spoken of, because of the strong powerfully; it must be ingrafted into us, and temptations of youth, and the great obstacles to bring forth fruit. When we are told to receive holiness which are then encountered. It is an the ingrafted word, we are called to agree that infallible rule that the psalmist inquires after—a the word shall have a fixed ascendency over us, rule that will meet the most difficult cases, and and that it shall be allowed to have the formation serve under the most unfavourable circumstances. of the character of our lives.
He therefore asks, “Wherewithal shall a young But how is the word to be received? With man cleanse his way?' meekness. There is much in the word of God Into heaven will go nothing that defileth. Neithat is distasteful to perverse man.
Views are ther the corrupt heart, nor the polluted hand, will therein presented for our adoption, which human be there. The feet that tread the paths of folly pride naturally recoils from, and wishes to be and sin, cannot enter into it. Yet it is the fact, concealed. It is painful to hear the truth fully that mankind are generally in a state of apathy told about one's own misdeeds. Where is he on the subject, and care not to know by what that likes to have the slumbers of a guilty con- means they may be sanctified. They have lost science broken, or to have the secrets of his own the divine image; and they do not seek to have that breast pourtrayed to him under the light of day? image restored, although without it there can be Is there no risk, at such a time, of giving way to no admission to the rest above. A sad indifference the sentiment of anger? No doubt there is; and extensively prevails; and there are few who think therefore are we here warned against it. Receive it worth their while to propose the psalmist's the word with meekness, it is said. Beware of question: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse taking umbrage at the word. It will arraign you his way?' Miserable error! Men will ask by what for sin; it will not spare your lusts; it will cause means they can increase their worldly goods— your consciences to quake. See that ye be not they will eagerly inquire how they may gain offended. The word is as a hammer that breaketh earthly distinction and fame—they will be on fire the rock in pieces: it smites with resistless force to know the lesson, which is to teach them what the hard and stony heart of impenitence. The must be done for securing a brief and uncertain word is as a sword; it is sharper than any two- gleam of temporal prosperity and happiness; but edged sword; and it pierces the heart of enmity they will feel no concern in ascertaining how they and rebellion against God. Receive the stroke may reach that moral condition which is necesof that hammer, receive the thrust of that sword, sary to the life of their souls; or how that great with meekness.
change is to be wrought in them, without which, Why ought the word to be received by us ? when this short drama is over, they must become The reason is stated; it is able to save our souls.' the food of the worm that dieth not the fuel of It is the power of God unto salvation to every the fire that is not quenched !
It is a happy omen when one begins in right What, then, must we do that we may be earnest to inquire how to become holy. There is upright in our walk, and holy in all manner of inuch more of favourable promise in it, than in a conversation? “Wherewithal shall a young man desire to escape from the wrath to come. The cleanse his way?' We are not left to guess at inisery that is justly connected with sin, may be, the answer. "By taking heed thereto, according and often is, regarded with apprehension and to thy word.' alarm, when sin itself is clung to. Without This rule may be resolved into two parts. One renewal of heart there may be a fearful looking is an injunction to watchfulness. We are required for of judgment, and dread of the curse of the to take heed to our way. The importance of Almighty; but there cannot be hatred of sin, and this may be seen from the frequency with which pantings for conformity to the image of God. The the call occurs in scripture. "Keep thine heart reason why it is so difficult to prevail on men to with all diligence. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, embrace salvation is, that deliverance from sin, consider your ways.' • Watch and pray, that ye spiritual cleansing, makes one of the elements enter not into temptation. Let us watch and whereof salvation is composed. To submit to be sober.' •Be sober, be vigilant.' Being prone this, to accept of it as a boon, eagerly to seek for to sin, strongly prone to it, we need to be ever it, is what the carnal mind never will do. A on the watch, lest our natural bias lead us astray. great step, therefore, has been made, when not The circumstance, too, that we are exposed to only is the punishment of sin thought of with dis- innumerable seductive influences, renders watchmay, but sin itself is abhorred, and freedom from fulness indispensable. its power is desired. Then has conviction passed The rule before us, moreover, embraces in it into conversion, and natural terror into godly fear. an injunction to have respect to the word of God
All the instincts and propensities of the new as the great directory and instrument of sancticreature are contrary to sin, and towards holiness. fication. • By taking heed thereto, according to There are also rational considerations, which have thy word.' In the word all that constitutes great force with the believer in inducing him to holiness is fully described. Holiness may be follow holiness. One of these is the authority of defined to be the walking in Christ's steps. It the divine law. He adverts to the fact of his is in the word that the steps of Christ are exsubjection to it, and has a vivid sense of the duty hibited, and his example is displayed. And of obedience thence arising. There are in him holiness may be also defined to be the putting on realizing views of the greatness of God, and of of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to the word that his sovereignty over all, and of the consequent we must go for the discovery of the Lord Jesus; obligation that lies upon all to keep his com- it is in the word that we must find him. Likemandments. Another of these considerations wise there belongs to the word a sanctifying is, the debt of gratitude which the believer owes efficacy. Our Lord spoke of this when he prayed, to God. When Christ urges his people to holi- Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is ness by the tender appeal, 'if ye love me,'—if ye truth; and when he said, “Now are ye clean, count me worthy of your love if I have done through the word which I have spoken unto you.' any thing for you that entitles me to your affection; the believer feels it to be irresistible. A third consideration is, that holiness is necessary to qualify for heaven. Christ said to his dis
SECOND DAY.-EVENING. ciples, “In my Father's house are many mansions; " But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up I go to prepare a place for you. Why, then,
into him in all things, which is the head, eten should it be in vain that these mansions exist, and that the glorified Saviour is preparing a place
Christ,' Eph. iv. 15. for his people? In vain it must be, if Christians As there is a spiritual birth, so is there a spiritare not sanctified. In vain have bright abodes ual growth; as there are babes, so are there been fitted up for the children of men, if none of perfect men in Christ Jesus. The continual the children of men are holy; in vain is a place endeavour of God's people ought to be to make prepared for the followers of Jesus, if they are progress in the divine life; and their steady aim not prepared for it. Without holiness none to reach Christian maturity. shall see the Lord. “Blessed are they that do We ought ever to be growing,
Is it the case his commandments, that they may have right that we are growing? We ought to be growing to the tree of life, and may enter in through the in all things.' Are we growing in any thing? gates into the city.'
We shall do well to examine. We ought to grow