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settling down in a carnal ease and satisfaction, in any merely light and superficial profession of truth, on the other. The Lord will carry on His work; yea, He will maintain it in depth and power; and to this end the faith He gives must be a tried faith—not nominally, not simply in word, but in reality, in depth, in power. And be assured, dear reader, much is involved in this. Much-very much-is comprehended in the saying of the apostle Peter, “ If need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” But oh, what a mercy, beloved, with respect to the trial of faith, that the Lord has not only the appointment, but the regulation and control of all the circumstances in regard to the trial. He sits as the Refiner, and He watches with ever-vigilant eye and ever-gracious interest the fiery process; nor will He allow the application of the veriest particle of fuel above that which He sees to be necessary. And, if Satan be permitted to assault, as in Job's case, so in the every instance of the every tempted one, the arch enemy has his expressed limits, over or beyond which he cannot possibly intrude. If allowed to touch the property of Job, his person must be sacred; and, if further permission be granted, in regard to his person, his life must be held in eternal security; and why? Because that life was "hid with Christ in God," and "whoso toucheth the believer toucheth the apple of His eye.”
We cannot, dear reader, better express what we mean about the Lord thus maintaining His work in the hearts of His dear people, and testing and trying their faith, than in the language of ħlessed Hart, as given in his 56th hymn, part i. :“Let us ask th' important question 'Tis to feel the fight against us; (Brethren, be not too secure)
Yet the vict'ry hope to gain. Wbat it is to be a Christian;
To believe that Christ has cleans'd How we may our hearts assure.
us ; Vain is all our best devotion,
Tho' the leprosy remain.
Prompting us to secret pray’r.
To rejoice in Jesus' merit;
Yet continual sorrow bear. “ 'Tis to trust our Well-beloved If His blood has wash'd us clean.
To receive a full remission
Of our sins for evermore; 'Tis to hope our guilt’s removed, Tho' we feel it rise within.
Yet to sigh with sore contrition, To believe that all is finish’d,
Begging mercy ev'ry hour. Tho' so much remains t'endure.
“ To be stedfast in believing; Find the dangers undiminish'd; Yet to tremble, fear, and quake. Yet to hold deliv'rance sure.
Ev'ry moment be receiving
Strength; and yet be always weak. “ 'Tis to credit contradictions,
To be fighting, fleeing, turning; Talk with Him one never sees. Ever sinking; yet to swim. Cry and groan beneath afflictions; To converse with Jesus mourning Yet to dread the thoughts of ease. For ourselves or else for Him."
Reader, can you personally adopt the foregoing? Remember it is in perfect keeping with what the apostle testifies in his second epistle
to the Corinthians, where he says: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplesed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. iv. 7–11). And again, in the 6th chapter, “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Cor. vi. 4-10).
2 But now, further, with regard to those of whom the Lord speaks, in the words before us, as “My people.” They are His (1) By eternal choice; and with respect to that choice there is no assignable reason whatever, except, “Even so, Father, because it seemeth good in Thy sight.” There was nothing in them to attract Jehovah's love any more than in the reprobate. All by nature and practice were involved in one common ruin; all in due time “ sinned, and came short of the glory of God;" and the only distinction between His people and the world still lying in the wicked one, was that which rich and free and sovereign grace makes. It is “ by the grace of God they are what they are." (2) They are “ His people” by gift—that is, the gift of the Father to Christ, for the purposes of redemption. Hence, in addressing His Father, He says, "Thine they were, and Thou gavest them me;" and again, “Behold I, and the children which God hath given me. (3) They are His people by purchase. “I lay down my life for the sheep." “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. i. 18, 19). (4) They 1 i
(4) They are His people by conquest. " But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so, making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby : and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to
them that were nigh. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. ii. 13—22). “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained merey” (1 Pet. ii. 9, 10).
Having thus, beloved, sought to show that God's dear people are His by sovereign choice, gift
, purchase, and conquest, we proceed to the contemplation of the great and glorious promise respecting them, namely, that “they shall never be ashamed.” Twice is this precious truth proclaimed within the compass of two or three verses, “My people shall never be ashamed."
Now, in this world of change, with all its diversified trials and sorrows and afflictions, what can be more precious than such a gracious assurance, coming as it does from the Lord's own mouth—from Him who was never known to lie? Nor is He dependent on another for the fulfilment of His own glorious promises. He lives in His own immutability, power, and authority. “What He purposes that He doth ;” “None dare stay His hand, nor say, What doest Thou?"
" Then observe, dear reader, 1. That the times and the circumstances under which these words were first spoken were critical and troublous. This is satisfactory, indeed, as we compare our own times with them. 2. We have an additional mercy, in that the Lord has so richly fulfilled His word. In the generations that have passed away since this most gracious promise was made, how sweet is the consideration that there has not, even in one solitary instance, been the very semblance of a failure ; but that Jehovah hath in very deed strictly fulfilled His word. Thus performance is added to the promise; and in this sense, in these latter days, the Church of God is more highly privileged than in any previous age.
3. The promise still stands in the future; “My people shall never be ashamed.” And the mercy is, that Jehovah took into His eternal mind all that appertains to the future, as much as He comprehended all that was connected with the past. This, beloved, is likewise a distinguishing mercy; and, as all the facts identified with the past were little by little developed, and the promise was, in all the vast details of passing circumstances, as it were in waiting for fulfilment by the great Covenanters, so shall it be in the future. As nothing has ever arisen, in the past ages of the world, to take Jehovah by surprise, to frustrate His purposes, or cause Him to forego His promises ; so likewise shall the same covenant verity attach itself to all that yet remains to be revealed respecting the
future of the Church, in the comparatively little (in point of time) that has to be accomplished before Jehovah brings the present state of things to an end. Furthermore, as man is usually anxious to put a good finish to his work, so God, in the bringing off the top-stone of His spiritual temple" with shoutings of, Grace, grace unto it,” will take care that nought shall arise to tarnish the glory or mar the beauty or completeness of His kingdom. As in His first creation He pronounced everything that He had made to be "very good,” so in the new creation shall a greater and a more abiding glory redound to His name, in the developments of His wisdom, love, and power.
. Dear reader, with these considerations, based as they are upon the precious word of God, may we not, with simplicity, godly fear, and childlike dependence, step over the threshold of a new year, with all its unseen realities, pleading, as we do so, His own covenant word, " Thou hast said, 'My people shall never be ashamed!'” Yea, and may we not sing, with the immortal Toplady,
“ The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
And never was forfeited yet:
Nor things bere below, nor above.
Or sever my soul from His love.
Eternity will not erase;
In marks of indelible grace.
As sure as the earnest is given ;
The glorified spirits in heaven. Beloved, we would just add, that some of us know what it is, in connexion with the varied changes and trying circumstances of this poor ever-varying life, to experience such fainting and fearing—such failing of heart and flesh-as to have absolutely nothing else but the word of the Lord to fall back upon : “My people shall never be ashamed.” Personally, we have of late witnessed such sorrowing heart-rending scenes that for the time being, we have really felt them overpowering. Some three or four cases, in particular, have positively been crushing in the contemplation. And Satan (ever on the alert, and ready to take advantage of a poor sensitive mind) suggests, at such seasons and under such scenes, Ah, this will be your case ; this your trial, this your affliction, this your temptation; thus and thus will matters work, and at length terminate with you." Thus, in addition to all one's own personal sorrows and personal anxieties and personal frailties, infirmities, and fears, the enemy will seek to add others' cares and others' crosses to one's own; and thus he will try to extinguish the seemingly little last germ of life left. Oh, how hard it is under these circumstances—and especially under a cloud and the
hidings of a Father's countenance—to "hope against hope." Oh,