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Such is the experience and practice, not of one, but of all the faithful servants of Jehovah. They have many trials; for, "many are the afflictions of the righteous," but they have also many consolations. Thus writes St. Paul, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."+
O! that I may be found amongst these chosen vessels of the Lord. I have to mourn over deadness, lukewarmness, and earthly-mindedness, though, through grace, I abhor these evils: I am grieved that my heart is so cold, when God is so kind; yea, I am grieved, that I grieve so little. What a paradox is my experience! In the midst of conflict, this is my comfort; when I am sensible of my weakness, and lean upon Christ, then I am strong;-when I am tried, and trust wholly in the Lord, then I am supported-when I am sorrowful, through manifold temptations, and look unto Jesus, then I am exceeding joyful. O! what a blessed religion is the religion of Jesus Christ, when it has its empire in the heart; when the Redeemer is enthroned in the affections; when the will is brought into a willing subjection to the Prince of Peace.
It is profitable to take a retrospective view of the path of life; to retrace the various movements of Providence; the many vicissitudes of this chequered scene. This will help to strengthen faith, as well as to deepen humility. Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, records the Lord's mercies, and Israel's transgressions, to awaken the gratitude, and to promote the humiliation of the Church in the wilderness. David, in his songs of Zion, recapitulates the dealings of the Lord with his people, "that the generation to come might know them, even the children + 2 Cor. i. 3, 4.
來 Psa. xxxiv. 19.
which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God; but keep his commandments."* How good it is, when the dealings of the Lord are handed down from generation to generation; when his praises are sung by children's children.
The review of our Christian state is both humbling and elevating. When we look at the rock whence we were hewn; and at the Rock on which we are placed, we may well exclaim, "What hath God wrought!" From the heart every true believer can say,-Blessed Lord, with deepest abasement of soul, I desire to approach thy divine Majesty. In myself, I have nothing but sin. In how many ways have I offended thee. My conscience testifieth against me. My own heart condemns me. When I contemplate thy Holiness, Justice, and Truth, must I not fear before Thee? But, in the midst of the throne, I behold a Lamb slain ;"+ I hear a voice of mercy proceeding from it: "God is just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."+ "Salvation is of the Lord."§ I behold, by this revelation of grace, a way of access opened to poor perishing sinners, through faith in the blood of the Lamb. Lord, give me faith in thy dear Son. Enable me to cast myself, without reserve, upon thy covenanted mercies in Christ Jesus. In him, alone, is eternal life. In him, is treasured up grace, mercy, and peace. O! for a heart to believe unto righteousness. This heart is thy gift, through the operation of the Holy Spirit. Thou knowest my wickedness, and wretchedness, my frailties and follies, my helplessness, and total alienation from thee, through original and actual transgression. Thou knowest from what height of happiness I am fallen; into what depth of misery I am plunged.
O! sovereign love,-O! matchless grace, which pitied me in my lost estate. To redeem my soul
* Psa. lxxviii. 6, 7.
+ Rev. v. 6. § Jonah ii. 9.
Rom. iii. 26.
from hell, the Eternal Word becomes incarnate, bears my griefs, carries my sorrows, is wounded for my transgressions, is bruised for mine iniquities, and dies upon the cross, being made a curse for me. This is a mystery which heavenly minds cannot fathom; but which can be received into the heart by faith. How precious is saving faith. It is the hand which receives the gift of grace; the hand which places the crown on the head of Jesus, ascribing glory and honour to the Lamb which was slain.
Through faith, I am complete in Christ. Through faith in his blood, all my sins are forgiven. Through faith in his righteousness, I have peace with God. But when I review my Christian privileges, I must put to my heart, an all-important question: Have I true faith, "the faith of God's elect ?" Jesus hath said, "By their fruits ye shall know them."* "The tree is known by his fruit."+ Here, then, is an unerring criterion, whereby to form a judgment of my real state in the sight of God. I must, then, examine myself whether I be in the faith.
What are the fruits which I habitually bring forth? What is the general tenour of my thoughts? When sinful thoughts arise, do I cherish them? Am I fond of retaining them? Or, can I say, in sincerity, I hate every sinful thought, affection, and desire.
Have I obtained the mastery over my imaginations, so as to be able to suppress them when contrary to purity and holiness? Alas! they struggle to gain the mastery. Like a bold enemy, they rally again and again, till I am sometimes ready to cry out with David: "I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul." But, at these seasons, I find prayer a neverfailing weapon, which puts to flight the armies of the aliens; and thus proves the truth of that gracious promise: "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."§
* Matt. vii. 20.
+ Matt. xii. 33.
1 Sam. xxvii. 1.
§ Psa. 1. 15.
Have I delight in communion with God, in secret retirement, meditation, reading the Scriptures, and prayer? Can I say with humility, I do delight in these seasons of retirement, when, apart from the noisy world, I can hold sweet intercourse with the Father of spirits?
But alas! I do not always enjoy that sweet and soul-enlivening communion with God, which I long and pray for. I have to lament over much unbelief, coldness of affection, and wandering thoughts. Still, though often discouraged, through the workings of indwelling sin, I would not give up these secret retirements. I am convinced, that no true happiness can be found, but in God. No salvation, but in Christ. No strength to resist sin, and grow in heavenlymindedness, but through the Spirit. For this reason, Satan tries hard to drive me from a throne of grace, well knowing the power of prayer:
66 For Satan trembles when he sees,
The weakest saint upon his knees."
I will therefore wait upon God, trusting to his promise, that he will never leave me, nor forsake me ;* but cause the light of his countenance to shine upon me, that I may be filled with joy unspeakable, and full of glory and be able to say, like Peter, at another manifestation, "It is good for me to be here."+
AM 1 CAREFUL OF MY WORDS?
Through divine grace, I have been preserved from corrupt conversation, from lightly using the sacred name of God, or venting unkind and uncharitable expressions, in spleen or anger. But, oh! what a load of guilt lies upon me for "idle words," those multiplied sins of the tongue. Though cheerful
See Gen. xxviii. 15.; Deut. xxxi. 6, 8.; 1 Chron. xxviii. 30. ;
Heb. xiii. 5.
+ See. Psa. iv. 6., Acts ii. 28.; 1 Pet. i. 8.
See Matt. xvii, 4.;
Mark ix. 5.;
Luke ix. 33.
conversation is innocent, when it does not degenerate into levity, yet the Christian has need to keep the door of his lips, when he remembers the words of his Lord: "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment: for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."* From this declaration of Christ, it is evident that words are declarative of our state. "By thy words thou shalt be justified." St. James expresses the same of works: "By works a man is justified."+ It is the same as if they had said, "The tree is known by his fruit." The meritorious cause of justification is the righteousness of Christ, apprehended by faith, which is the instrument; while good works are the fruit which evidence and declare our being justified in the sight of God; for, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."‡
Surely, I have cause to cry out with the publican: "God be merciful to me a sinner."§ If I were to be judged, only for the words which I have spoken from childhood to old age, oh! how could I appear before the all-seeing, heart-searching God? David felt the force of this truth, "Thou God seest me," when he penned his beautiful Psalm: "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising; thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path, and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether."||
Do I love, when suitable opportunities occur, to talk upon religious subjects, not controversially, but experimentally and practically? Am I desirous, at all times, to render conversation profitable and instructive, good to the use of edifying? Is Jesus, that endearing name, often on my tongue, not from mere profession, or vain display, but from a heart+ Chap. ii. 24.
Matt. xii. 36, 37.
James ii. 26.