« PreviousContinue »
connection between a right apprehension of the him with rapturous praise, and yield him a cheerlove of God towards us, and the exercise of our ful and devoted service. love towards him, that it is laid down as a uni- More particularly, love is ever found ardently versal principle, we love him, because he first to desire the presence of its object. And nothing loved us.'
can be more natural than the exercises of the It is not inconsistent with the gospel to love church, in this respect, as described in the Song of God on account of the benefits which he has con- Songs. By night, on my bed I sought him whom ferred upon us.
True, we ought to love him for my soul loveth. I sought him but I found him not,' his own excellence, independent of his kindness to earnestly desiring communion with him. I will
But we are not forbidden to be influenced rise now and go about the city; in the streets and by a sense of our obligations to him. Gratitude in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul is a principle natural to man, and ought to be loveth; I sought him but I found him not.' Ah cherished by lively exercises. Where it is wanted no, Christ was not to be found in the concourse of we expect nothing that is good. The gospel is sinners. "The watchmen that go about the city both designed and calculated to call it forth, and found me; to whom I said, Saw ye him whom the blessings which it confers highly aggravate my soul loveth ?' These were the ministers of the guilt of ingratitude. If we do not love God religion. It was but a little way that I passed for what he hath done in Christ, we can have no from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth. evidence of the enjoyment of his favour. Our I held him and would not let him go, until I had love to him is an indispensable token of our par- brought him into my mother's house, and into the ticipation in his love to us.
chamber of her that conceived me. This is the Let us then entertain the question of our Lord enjoyment of Christ in the ordinances of the to Peter, ‘Lovest thou me?' and remembering the church. “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusolemn emphasis by which it was thrice repeated, salem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, let us examine our love to Jesus. We put the that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he inquiry in the form of love to Jesus, for this is please. Every thing is avoided that might dissubstantially the same as love to God, and it turb the sweet communion of the soul with seems more easy to our weak apprehension. Christ.
If then we really love Christ we ought to be But let us not suppose that love is merely senconscious of the existence of this affection in us. timental. It is an active, moving, mighty prinThis was never questioned by Peter, when our ciple, urging to deeds of noblest daring, and calling Lord inquired at him, but in the simplicity of an forth other affections of the soul to vigorous and honest heart he replied, 'Lord, thou knowest all sustained exertion. It animates with indomitable things, thou knowest that I love thee. It grieved | zeal. See the apostle Paul, and hear how he him to think his love to Christ should be ques- spoke and acted under its influence: “Whether we tioned. Nor are we at any loss to determine be beside ourselves it is to God, or whether we whether we have love toward any of our fellow-be sober it is for your cause.
For the love of creatures. Why then should it be counted weak Christ constraineth us. It induces a spirit of and fanatical to speak of our love to Jesus? We self-denial. Many waters cannot quench love. may and ought to be conscious of its existence, Any thing will be borne that can secure the faand its exercise, and never rest until we are so. vour or enhance the happiness of those we love.
But if this be thought an evidence too refined Nor is there any principle but this that will acand unsatisfying, let us remember that love will count for the hardships and privations which the show itself by the marked preference which it servants of Christ have borne for his sake, and ever gives to its object, and especially so, when not merely borne with patience, but “rejoicing that object is Christ. 'I count all things but loss that they were counted worthy to suffer for his for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ name.' Love prompts to unwearied efforts in beJesus my Lord. Such was the language of Paul, half of the people of Christ. A tender interest is and the same is the sentiment of every true felt in all that concerns them for his sake. “WhoChristian, placing Christ above every other object, soever loveth him that begat, loveth him also that and renouncing every thing inconsistent with his is begotten of him. Our affection for the parent service. In the Song of Solomon the church is binds us to his children. And as we love Christ made to say, “my beloved is white and ruddy, the so shall we love his people, and delight to do chiefest among ten thousand. He has attractions them good. This Christ requires at our hand, and for her above every other being,-causing her to he has distinctly forewarned us that he will look
him with great delight, to speak of for this distinguishing mark in the day of judg
ment, when to all his servants he will be able to nature and constitution, opposed to God. As for say, in explanation of their kindness to him, “in- the law of God, it does not feel nor own its obliasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least gation, nor until it is completely changed by the of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' power of God, can it do so. Its nature is sinful, In short, love prompts to the universal obedience and must be regenerated before it can love God of Christ. This is his own test: “If ye love me or his law. What is thus asserted may be proved keep my commandments. And the same is the by the least observation. Men every where are rule of his beloved apostle John: “Hereby we do found in a state of rebellion against God. What know that we know him, if we keep his command he teaches they are indisposed to receive, and ments.' And again he repeats the sentiment: “He the natural man receiveth not the things of the that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, Spirit of God.' What he forbids they are disand he in him.'
posed to do, and they go astray from the womb. By these evidences let us try our love to Christ. What he requires they neglect, and say, We will Let us deal faithfully with ourselves. And while not have him to rule over us. And the dispenwe are encouraged by the apostolic blessing, sations and appointments of his providence pro'grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus voke them to murmuring and impatience, for Christ in sincerity,' let us be warned by the awful they desire to follow their own ways.
It is, sentence, 'if any man love not the Lord Jesus therefore, not too much to declare that men are Christ let him be anathema, maranatha,'-ac-enemies to God. cursed at the coming of our Lord.
Now it was when they were such that God was pleased to provide for their reconciliation to himself by the death of his Son. And on every
part of this provision how clearly do we see his THIRD DAY.-MORNING.
sovereign grace. It originated with himself, un
sought by the offender. When our first parents *For if, when we were enemies, we were recon
sinned, they hid themselves from God, and came ciled to God by the death of his Son, much not forth to confess their sin, and seek for pardon. more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his The promise of deliverance came wholly and freely life,' Rom. v. 10.
from God himself. Its nature was as gracious We are accustomed to reason from the past to as its origin. It consisted in the humiliation, and the future. As we have been treated, hitherto, suffering, and death of his own Son. Nothing for good or ill, so are our expectations for the time else could suffice, and even this sacrifice was not to come. Applying this principle to the dealings withheld. By it the recovery of the sinner was of God with us, the experience of his goodness completely secured. A new and living way of may well induce our confidence in him for all we access was opened up for him to the pure and need. But especially may this rule be adopted by holy Being whom he had offended. Pardon was the believer, who, when he thinks what Christ rendered compatible with the law and character has already done for his soul, may well confide in of God. An atonement was made for sin, and him for all the purposes of his future salvation. nothing stood in the way to hinder the offender's This is the principle inculcated in the passage return to God, if he could only be persuaded to
Let us follow out the views which it embrace the provision of the gospel. And even suggests of the blessings which the believer has this also was secured. The Holy Spirit was a already received, and of his security for the part of the Saviour's purchase. He is sent into future.
the heart, and inclines it to receive Christ. By It reminds us that we were enemies.' Enemies grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of to God. We were such by nature. No lan- yourselves, it is the gift of God.' Thus the guage could be stronger than that which is em- whole scheme is one of sovereign mercy from ployed by the apostle Paul to describe the natural first to last—its origin, its nature, its completeenmity of the human heart to God. "The car- ness, its very application. And this last not less nal mind is enmity against God, for it is not so than any of all the rest. For however grasubject to the law of God, neither indeed can cious the dispensation, such is the blindness and be. By the carnal mind is meant the disposition hardness of the sinner that, if left to himself, he which we inherit according to the flesh, and would never submit to it. He must be conwhich is as universal as human nature. This dis- strained by the same grace that originated and position is enmity, not merely discovering some completed it. And it is his consciousness of this symptoms of opposition, but radically, in its very that affects him perhaps as much as the scheme of
mercy itself. For why should God deal so ten
THIRD DAY.—EVENING. derly by him? What was there in him beyond any other sinner to induce the favour of God? | Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy He is sensible there was nothing, and he acknow- power,' Psal. cx. 3. ledges, in the fullest sense and with heart-felt What are we to understand by the day of power? gratitude, that when he was an enemy he was This is determined by the context, in which there reconciled to God by the death of his Son.' is a prediction of gospel times. Christ is con
Shall he not then trust this gracious God gratulated by the Father upon his victory as the for the future? Will not he who has begun Saviour of men, ver. 1. The extension of his so good a work in him carry it to perfection ? cause and truth is clearly foretold, ver. 2. And Yes; here also the provision is complete. If the then, as the consequence of this, it is promised believer has been reconciled to God when an to him that his people should willingly submit enemy, by the death of his Son, 'much more themselves to him. By the day of power, therebeing reconciled shall he be saved by his life. The fore, we are to understand the gospel age and death of Christ secured his reconciliation to God, dispensation. and the life of Christ is abundant security that But why, or for what reason is the gospel so his salvation shall be completed.
described? There is great propriety in the reBy the life of Christ we are reminded of what presentation, and that for many reasons.
The he is, and does, and has undertaken to accomplish gospel was the age of miracles. It was long foreas our risen and exalted Saviour. “All power told that it should be so distinguished. Isaiah has been given unto him in heaven and in earth.' writes of it, “ Then the eyes of the blind shall be He rose the conqueror of sin and satan, he opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, ascended leading captivity captive, he has gone then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the to heaven the representative and advocate of his tongue of the dumb sing.' When Christ came he people, he pleads their cause at God's right hand applied these predictions to himself, and by an above, he sends out his Holy Spirit in his gifts appeal to his own miraculous works proved that and graces as these may be needed by them, he the Messiah was come in him. Again, the gospel restrains their enemies, he controls and guides all is the ministration of the Spirit, and is remarkthe affairs of men, and he makes all things work ably accompanied by his power. Compared with together for good to them that love God, to them the full measure of the Spirit's influences, enjoyed that are the called according to his purpose. All under the gospel, it is said of all former dispensathis, and far more, is implied in the saying of the tions, “The Holy Ghost was not yet given, beapostle Paul, “he is able to save them to the cause Jesus was not yet glorified.' The new disuttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he pensation was opened by the miraculous effusion ever liveth to make intercession for them. And
of his gifts and graces upon the day of Pentecost. how noble the triumph of believers, celebrated The word preached by the apostles was accomby the apostle, as resting on this secure basis ! panied by the demonstration of the Spirit and of •Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's power. And they could appeal to their hearers, elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that they had preached the gospel unto them that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.' rather that is risen again, (yea rather that is risen But besides these general interpretations, there again), who is even at the right hand of God; is a view of the day of power' suggested by the who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall expressions accompanying it, which it may be well separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tri- particularly to notice. • Thy people shall be bulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these of holiness from the womb of the morning; thou things we are more than conquerors through him hast the dew of thy youth.
' Does it not foretell that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither the time when the converts of the gospel would death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor be as numerous and beautiful as the dew-drops powers, nor things present, nor things to come, of the morning, and that these would be found nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, especially among the young? Assuming that this shall be able to separate us from the love of God, is a right interpretation, then by the day of which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'
power' is to be understood the day of conversion, when the Holy Spirit comes in mighty and saving operation upon the mind, quickening the conscience, renewing the heart, and creating the sinner a new man in Christ Jesus. Such a time well as his Saviour. Whatever is shown to him is well called the day of power. Nothing but to be contrary to the will of Christ in his life he the mighty power of God can regenerate the is willing to abandon. We see in him the proof sinner. He hath saved us by the washing of of the testimony, ‘God having raised up his Son regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Jesus, sent him to bless you in turning away which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus every one of you from his iniquities. The grace Christ our Saviour.' He alone can correct our of the Spirit is seen in him, enabling him to rewayward dispositions, subdue our rebellious wills, nounce long-cherished and sinful practices, to change our sinful habits, and reform our evil obey the trying command, "If thy right hand practices. When such a change is effected, it is offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee.' Nor truly a day of power'-saving and divine. is he merely made to cease from that which is
And let us now observe the result of such a evil, he is taught to do well. He feels the force day, and its gracious operations. The subjects of the remonstrance, and seeks to comply with its of it are willing,' they become the voluntary demands, “ Ye are not your own, ye are bought servants of the Lord Jesus. By the power of with a price, therefore glorify God in your body the Holy Spirit their minds are so enlightened as and your spirit, which are his.' He is willing to clearly to discriminate between right and wrong, imitate Christ. He longs after greater conforbetween good and evil; their hearts are so changed mity to him, desirous to have the mind in him as to choose and take pleasure in the ways of that was also in Jesus, to walk even as he walked, God; their taste becomes spiritual, their affec- to be pure as he was pure, benevolent as he was tions heavenly, their desires pure, their pursuits benevolent, self-denied, and holy, and devoted righteous. Thus 'God worketh in them both to like him. will and to do of his good pleasure.' Their will He is willing to honour Christ. Not only in and conduct he conforms to his own. Let us his own heart, but in the world. He is zealous, remember the service of the believer is not ren-yea, jealous for the honour of Jesus upon the dered in the spirit of a slave but a son. What earth. This makes him willing to contribute to he does for God he delights to do. He is em- his cause. He contributes of his substance, 'a phatically 'Willing.
cheerful giver,' because he feels the power of the He is willing to be saved by Christ. He is exhortation, “ Freely ye have received, freely willing to be a debtor to sovereign grace. Nor give. He contributes of his labour, in doing will anything but the power of Jehovah's Spirit good as he has opportunity. He contributes of ever make him so. The gospel is the last refuge his time and talents, desiring to obey the comof the sinner. Until he sees that either he must mand of his Lord, “Occupy till I come,' and anperish or embrace it, he will not embrace it. ticipating his summons, Give an account of thy Self-righteousness is the great enemy of Christ. stewardship. Should difficulties arise, and disIt can exist under any form. The great com- appointments, and distresses, and even persecuplaint of men, whether nominal Christians or tions, he is willing to bear them. God enables heathens, unenlightened Protestants or degraded him to receive the consolation, Rejoice, inasPapists, is the same. Being ignorant of God's much as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, righteousness, and going about to establish their that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be own righteousness, they have not submitted them- glad also with exceeding joy.' selves to the righteousness of God.' Only he who has felt the power of the Holy Ghost, perceives and receives the truth that • Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that be
FOURTH DAY.—MORNING. lieveth But he does understand and submit to it. He humbles himself to be taught of God. “I find then a laư, that, when I would do good, He thankfully embraces this only hope of the
evil is present with me,' Rom. vii. 21. sinner. And he willingly rejoices to say, 'I count 'I would do good. So said Paul and so saith all things but loss for the excellency of the know- every believer. He has undergone an entire ledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; that I may be moral change, which lays the foundation of holifound in him, not having mine own righteousness ness in a regenerated heart. The language exwhich is of the law, but that which is through pressive of this change is singularly strong and faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is pointed: “We are bis workmanship, created in of God by faith.'
Christ Jesus, unto good works. The believer is He is willing to have Christ for his master as the work of Jehovah's hand, who causes him to
undergo a revolution of character that changes Paul says, “I delight in the law of God after the all his principles and motives of action, and in inward man, but I see another law in my memvirtue of which he is led into the practice of good bers, warring against the law of my mind, and works. The same change is described by another bringing me into captivity to the law of sin apostle under another view, and he says of it, which is in my members.' It is by reason of 'whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, this old man, this corrupt and sinful nature, that for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin evil is present' with the believer. And so because he is born of God.' This meaning must much is this the case that Paul says,
that be that so far as he is a partaker of a new, re- is, in my flesh (in his old nature) there dwelleth generated nature, he does not commit sin. That no good thing. As far as the new nature prenature is contrary to sin. It is pure as its own vails there is no sin; as far as the old nature author, and were there no other nature than this prevails there is nothing but sin. in man there would be no sin found in his life. An evil heart is present. Its corruptions are This is the nature which is called in the scriptures not altogether destroyed. These discover themthe new man,' and whose voice is uttered in the selves from time to time as there are provocations earnest cry, 'I would do good.'
to call them forth. They are hard to be supHe desires to do good. This is his bent and pressed. The soil once barren, but now inclination. It appears as soon as there is a riched by cultivation, is ever inclined to send work of grace in the soul. In the young convert forth its native evil fruit. And although the it is singularly interesting. It cannot be repressed. heart be renewed by grace, there is still a remainIt is ardent to be engaged. Often does it err in ing depravity that attaches to it by nature, and the way of doing good, and may many times inclines to manifest its evil dispositions. transgress the limits of human prudence, yet the An evil body is present. Its passions are disposition is strong and inextinguishable, nor can strong. Its lusts cry for their gratification. By it rest in indolent inaction.
its infirmities it darkens the mind, by its proHe delights to do good. What he purposes pensities it pollutes the imaginations, by its weakdoes not arise from any constraining sense of duty nesses it incapacitates for duty. This is what merely. There is such a sense of duty, but there Paul seems particularly to have felt when he is something higher at the same time. He takes cried out, "O! wretched man that I am, who pleasure in his pursuits. The word of God is shall deliver me from the body of this death ?' precious to his soul. The people of God are An evil world is present. Its temptations are dear to his heart. The ordinances of God are many. Its riches deceive, its pleasures allure, its the joy of his spirit. He delights in the law ambition blinds the soul. Our Saviour well said, of God after the inward man,' approving it, ap- 'beware of men.' Man is the enemy of man. plauding it, and anxiously aspiring after clearer The ungodly seek to destroy the work of grace views, and more hearty conformity to it. in the believer. They malign it, and persecute
And he does good. It is not all mere desire it, and thwart it. "In the world ye shall have and purpose with him. God gives him, more or tribulation.' less, the desire of his heart, and he finds and em- An evil enemy is present. Satan has access braces opportunities of doing good. The house to the mind. He employs the corrupt heart, and of mourning, or the social meeting, or the dying the flesh, and the world, for his devices against bed, or the sabbath school, may be the scene of the believer. All temptations are rendered his labours. He must watch the providences of stronger through his agency. We wrestle not God, and follow them as his guide. In labour- against flesh and blood (merely) but against prining in that department which God, he believes, cipalities, and powers, against spiritual wickedhas assigned him, he labours not in vain, but in ness in high places.' due season shall he reap if he faint not.
Such is the Christian life. This is its law. It But alas! When he would good, evil is pre- is a controversy at the best. It is no doubt well sent with him.' This arises out of remaining in that it is so, for it tends to our humiliation, and dwelling sin. For as there is a new nature, out to the glory of Christ, and weans from this life, of which all good desires and holy purposes arise, and makes us long for the next. And O! it is so there is an old nature upon which the new well that this law of the Christian's condition nature has been superinduced by the grace of should be carefully considered and remembered. God. There are thus in every believer both the Let us not wonder at the strong temptations that new man and the old man. There is the law of the beset us, but let us be prepared against them. spirit of life, and the law of sin and of death. As The more we shall desire to do good the more