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felt love to Him, whom angels worship, and whom saints adore ? "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."* Can we imagine St. Paul to have been in the circle of Christian believers for weeks and months, and never to have dwelt upon the theme nearest his heart, the dying love of Christ, except when engaged in the act of public preaching? And yet, alas! how seldom do some ministers of the gospel make Jesus the Alpha and the Omega of their discourses, either publicly, or, like the Apostle, from "house to house."+ May not Jesus say to such, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love?" Or, rather, "because thou art destitute of the first love, which was manifested by the warm-hearted members of my primitive Church?"
Both ministers and people have cause for deep humiliation on this account. "Them that honour me," saith the Almighty, "I will honour."§ "If we deny him, he also will deny us."|| Lord, make me faithful. Preserve me from false-heartedness and faint-heartedness. Keep me from the extremes of vainglory, and the fear of man. Clothe me with humility.
Do I seize opportunities for speaking a word in season; either of reproof, exhortation, or encouragement? A consciousness of my own depravity, mixed with an undue feeling of shame, often keeps me from being faithful in the performance of this duty. To speak about Christ to worldly characters, is difficult; but not impracticable, when the truth is spoken in love.
Nothing wins its way to the heart so much as genuine Christian love, which is ever clothed with humility. It often disarms the violence of opposition; and disposes the worldling to listen to the voice of reproof; yea, even to confess the error of his
O! that I may have grace to perform this, and every other self-denying duty; leaving consequences with God.
HOW ARE MY ACTIONS IN GENERAL?
If there be none that are openly vicious and immoral; or, such as bring a scandal on religion; or, make the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme; to God be all the praise. I may be punctually observant of all outward duties, which respect the sanctuary and the family; be chiefly associated with religious characters; be actively engaged in promoting religious institutions; and yet be destitute of love to Christ, without which, all my doings are nothing worth. It is the principle, which gives the quality to the action. This our Lord has clearly declared in the sermon on the Mount.*
Let me examine into this matter. When I perform the various commanded duties, is it from a desire to be seen 'of men? Or, does it spring from the force of education, habit, and custom? Or, from a change of sentiment, through the influence of the circle in which I move? If so, I am a tree without fruit.
True faith worketh by love; love to Christ and love to holiness. It is most important, that this be well established in the mind; that this point be settled on Scripture grounds. If I perform my duties from a principle of love to God, and delight in Him, then I have a clear scriptural evidence that I am his; for if I love God, it is because he hath first loved me.† Then I have a clear proof, that I am interested in the work of Christ's redemption; for love is the fruit of faith, and the solid evidence of my acceptance with God; for whom he justifies, them he also glorifies; and what is our glory, but to be like him here in holiness, and to dwell with him in glory everlasting.
See Matt. v., vi., vii.
Rom. viii. 30.
+ 1 John iv. 19.
Surely these will be the meditations and aspirations of every true believer in Jesus.
Blessed Lord! create in me these holy, heavenly desires, and endeavours to please thee. Kindle the flame of love, and cause it to burn continually on the altar of my heart. Let it be like the fire of the sanctuary, which was never to go out.* Increase my faith and love, my hope and desire, my ardent longings after thee. O make me sincere, on every review of my Christian state and character. Make my heart pure; freed from unhallowed affections, and sinful imaginations. Let my conversation be pious and profitable; my actions be agreeable to thy will, in every relation and department of life. Implant right principles in my soul, and keep me, through the merits of Christ, and the grace of the Spirit, to thy everlasting kingdom.
LXX. A GRATEFUL RETROSPECT OF UNDESERVED
"How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand."-Psa. cxxxix. 17, 18.
Ir is delightful to contemplate what the blessed Jesus is to his believing people. He manifests himself to them in the most condescending manner, by using those similitudes which are level to the humblest understanding. Truly, his words are spirit, and they are life. He spake as never man spake.†
I. "I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing."+
*Lev. vi. 13.
† John vi. 63.; vii. 46.
John xv. 5.
Here I learn, that as the branch receives all its sap from the parent stem, by which union, its fruitfulness is produced; so my soul can only bring forth the fruits of righteousness, by being grafted into Christ by faith. A branch cut off, lies withered on the ground: and, severed from Christ, I shall be barren also.
II." I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."*
David blesses God for the gift of "bread which strengtheneth man's heart."+ If bread be called the staff of life, for its nourishing quality, how precious is the bread from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ! He is indeed the bread of life. He alone, can give life to the world, to all who come unto him by faith; for whosoever believeth shall be saved.
III. "I am the Door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."+
As the sheepfolds in Judea were enclosed, to keep out beasts of prey, it was important that they should be well guarded.
Within such a protected sheepfold, the flock could repose in safety. Jesus is the only door of admittance into the gospel-fold. By faith in him, I am admitted into his Church, and form one of the sheep of his pasture, to whom he kindly says: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." The roaring lion of the wilderness, who is ever going about seeking whom he may_devour, cannot invade this sacred enclosure, for He, who is the door, is the Omnipotent Saviour.
IV. "I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
John x. 9.
See 1 Pet. v. 8.
John x. 11.
Jesus is not only the door into the sheep-fold, but also the good shepherd of the sheep. He is the "All, and in All" to his people. Whilst the hireling fleeth, and leaveth his flock to the danger of the wolf, Jesus giveth his life for the sheep, that they may be saved from every evil, spiritual and eternal. Happy are the sheep of his pasture, who hear his voice and follow him. To such he will give eternal life, for none can pluck them out of his hands.
O! how great is the love and care of the good Shepherd. He died, that we might live; and ever liveth to make intercession for us.* He wills the salvation of his believing people. He seeks them, he saves them, he sanctifies them, he glorifies them. O! that we may rise to the full assurance of faith and hope.
V. "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me."+
As a pilgrim, travelling through a dreary desert, I need a guide to direct me. I perceive various roads branching out on the right hand and on the left, but into which shall I turn? Which of them will lead me to the city of Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem ? see a guide post, on which is written : "This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." While reading, I hear a voice: "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."§ I ask for direction, I entreat the Lord himself to guide me into the way wherein I should go; he hears my prayer; "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." Oh! what a blessing! Jesus is both the way, and the guide to heaven.
*Heb. vii. 25.
+ John xiv. 6.
+ Isa. xxx. 21.
§ Jer. vi. 16.