« PreviousContinue »
could not part with them, they were so precious to him.
In all these and many more respects, the love of Christ is amazing love, inimitable love,- love stronger than death, and love which all the floods from heaven, earth, and hell could not drown or even damp.
But what should we know of the love of God the Father and the Son, without God the Holy Ghost, by whom this covenant love is made known and shed abroad in the heart ? Love moved his to inspire holy men of old to write and publish the same. They spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ; so that to the Holy Spirit we owe all the doctrines, promises, and declarations of love Divine. The love of the Spirit is further manifested in finding the dead, in giving them life, and light, and knowledge. He finds us in the dust and on the dunghill, and his great condescending love and power come to us, where we lay, in our sins and in our blood ; he does not come to invite or woo, to persuade or threaten, but to quicken and make alive. Thus the Lord declares he finds his elect, at the appointed time, in that helpless, woeful, and perishing condition, set forth in the prophecy of Ezekiel : “None eye to pity, cast out into the open field, to the loathing of thy person. And when I passed by thee and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live. Yea, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live. And when I passed by thee and looked upon thee, behold thy time was the time of love." Here we have a description of the breaking forth of Jehovah's love in time to the sinner, in his own personal experience : the time of love ! What but sovereign love, free love, and grace, could move the eternal Spirit thus to come with life-giving power, and bring us up out of our graves, where all mankind by nature lie. Yes, it is love that seeks and gathers the jewels for the Mediator's glorious crown,- love that hews the stone from the quarry, and fits and polishes the same for Mercy's building. It is love that separates the sinner from the love of sin, from the dominion of sin, and that rescues the object beloved out of the grasp of the prince of the power of the air. This is a powerful love and loving power, which works salvation in the soul and sanctifies all the powers and faculties thereof; the understanding is enlightened, the judgment is set right, the will is made subservient and bows to almighty grace ; the affections are won, the conscience is made alive and tender, yea, a new heart and a right spirit are given, enmity is slain, and the distant brought into a state of amity and friendship. And the love of the Spirit is further nanifested in maintaining the work begun in every fresh communication of grace, in every drop of grace supplied from the great ocean. Every blessing is conveyed by his powerful and loving hand. It is the Spirit that quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothing. He not only discovers the dreadful malady of sin, he also must shew and apply the only and precious remedy: “He shall glorify me, for he shall take of mine and shew it unto you." It is his gracious office to open up the secret of God's eternal love to the heart, the deep things of God; ħe it is that shows to the covenant people of God, the covenant of grace : he shows the interested ones the bond of it, the fulness of it, the stability of it, the Surety of it, the Mediator of it, the blood of it, and the precious promises and sure mercies of it. These are the blessed realities the eternal Spirit reveals to the living faith of his people, which faith, both in its implantation in the heart and the exercise of it, is entirely of his Divine operation ; therefore, it is emphatically called the faith of God's elect, and the faith of the operation of the Spirit of God. Every grace in the renewed heart is planted there by his loving hand, and watered, shielded, and kept alive by his fructifying power and influence. There is not a grain of true holiness but he imparts it. He also is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. If we have a good hope, it is through his grace, and if we abound in hope it is through the power of the Holy Ghost ; and if we ever get experimentally into the love of God, is by the Lord the Spirit our hearts are directed into that love. Patience, he is the Author of it; strength, he communicates it. Strengthened with alí might by his Spirit in the inner man. Peace—he is the celestial Dove who reveals and applies that peace to the heart : and all true and solid comfort proceeds from him who is “the Comforter.” The kingdom of God set up in the heart, consists in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. His loving power applies every cordial to the faint, “ He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." By his blessed sealing and testimony, we know the things that are freely given to us of God. His it is to open the sweet word of grace, and to lead the believer into the heart of every doctrine and promise. Every sweet drop of honey from the smitten rock, from the written or the preached word, that drops into the mouth of faith, his loving hand drops down. It is he that revives the soul when drooping, he waters with heavenly dew the thirsty plant of grace ; he it is that mortifies our lusts, and crucifies us to the world. He is the immediate inspirer of all true prayer, and of all acceptable praise. He in a word begins the good work in the soul and never leaves it from the first sigh for mercy to the last parting breath. He restores, restrains, instructs, leads, and guides into all truth; and in all his blessed work the greatness, the sovereignty, and immutability of his love, appears equally with that of the Father, and of the Son.
“Love quickens, keeps, and glorifies,
And who can speak its worth ?" Yea, He, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, loved the people. Islington, April 9th, 1869.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
BY SAMUEL COULING.
WHEN David wrote the 23rd Psalm, he was a king, although he had once been shepherd. He was indeed taken from the sheep cote to become ruler over Israel. He was God's anointed, and God's chosen vessel of mercy : and, therefore, God kept him and prepared his way, until he occupied the position that God had designed for him. At what period of life he wrote the Psalm alluded to, we cannot now tell. It would be probably when he was far advanced in life. There is in it a deep, rich tone of experimental piety, which could only be acquired by a long course of dependance upon God, in the midst of heavy trials and deep afflictions, and of intimate communion with God at all times. A young and inexperienced man would not write so calmly, nor would his description of the dark valley be so vividly glowing and so full of comfort. We may read this Psalm at all times as a hymn of praise to God for mercies past, and of faith in God for all that may be necessary for the time to come. It is long centuries since the Psalm was written ; but it is as fresh to-day as ever ; and as well adapted now to the circumstances of the believer in Christ, as it was thirty centuries ago to the Israelitish ruler. The first verse contains the key-note of the whole Psalm. If we can say with David, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” we can say all the rest ; for every part of the Psalm comes most blessedly home to the believer's experience.
David is by faith looking down the long vista of ages, and contemplating the glorious person and work of Him who said, “I am the good Shepherd.” Christ was the object of faith to the Old-Testament saint, as he is now to those who live under the economy of grace. “ The Lord is my Shepherd.” The employment of a shepherd was not in ancient times the menial office that it is at the present day. The greatest men of antiquity: Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David, were all shepherds. Jesus Christ, therefore, in this as in other things, “became like unto his brethren;" and no office could better become the Saviour than this, for, said he, “I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep.” David says, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The term “Lord” had reference to the Divine perfections the Son of God; while the term “Shepherd ” relates to his mediatorial character and relationship. We learn much from experience, and there is no doubt but that in penning this Psalm, David falls back upon a circumstance which had taken place in his own history, and which is recorded in 1 Sam. xvii. 34, thus, “Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion and a bear
and took a lamb out of the flock; and I went after him, and delivered it out of his mouth ; and when he arose against me, I caught him by the beard, and slew him : thy servant slew both the lion and the bear.” And now, long afterwards, when one day remembering all the way by which God had led him, this incident occurs to his recollection, and meditating upon it, he thinks of Him who was hereafter to “ feed his flock like a shepherd, and to gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom ;” and he cries out, “ The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” All, and more than all, that I was to my sheep, the Lord is to me.
“He feeds me with a shepherd's care,
And all my wants he shall snpply." Jesus saves the lives of his sheep from the “roaring lion," who goes about seeking whom he
“all we like sheep have gone astray,” it is only the Lord our Shepherd—“the good Shepherd,”-—“the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls," that can rescue and save us by himself, “ giving his life for the sheep," as it is said, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.” He died for his sheep that they might have eternal life.
But it requires faith to be enabled to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” This is the language of appropriation. Just as when the church says, “ My beloved is mine and I am his ; and when Thomas cries out, “ My Lord and my God.” But this faith God by his Holy Spirit is pleased to give to his believing family. He enables them to say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth," "I know whom I have believed ;” and although sometimes doubts and fears may rise in our minds, yet even then He says, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee.”
Believing thus in the great and good Shepherd, what comfort and encouragement comes to the child of God ! “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” This is the necessary conclusion to be arrived at: if he cares for me, I shall not want shelter in trouble, courage in trial, faith in distress, for “ the Lord is my portion ; therefore will I hope in him.”. “The Lord is my light and my salvation ; therefore will I not fear." This God is our God for ever and ever he will be our guide even unto death.” He is Lord of all in heaven and earth ; therefore we shall not want food for the body, nor bread for the soul : “ The Lord will provide,” and “My sheep shall never perish." If we need rest the good Shepherd says,
“ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If we need guidance and protection, he has promised to give them; and even when passing through the valley of the shadow of death, the believer can say, “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort
“ The Lord is my Shepherd,” and, therefore, he will provide, he will protect, he will pardon. And as he is “my Shepherd,” I shall not want a righteousness to cover me, grace to preserve me, nor glory to crown the whole.
There is, then, consolation here for the poor, the tried, and the afflicted, in God's family. Jesus Christ is our "good Shepherd,” our elder Brother, our Friend; and
“ The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
He will not, he will not, desert to his foes;
He'll never, no never, no never forsake."
“HE COMMITTED HIMSELF TO HIM THAT JUDGETH RIGHTEOUSLY.”
1 PETER Ü. 23. LIKE every other passage in the written word of God, that one in Isaiah is demonstratively true : “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are thy ways above our ways, and thy thoughts above our thoughts.” The Lord's ways of delivering his people from trouble, circumstantial, relative, or spiritual, all speak out the deep mystery connected therewith, and that without controversy.
“ 'Tis thine own work, almighty God,
And wondrous in our eyes.
His ways are, indeed, ofttimes in the deep, and his path in the nighty waters. “He hath his way," not where we should choose it, in the smooth unruffled sea, or the sweet and balmy breezes, but “in the whirlwind and the storm ;” not according to our notions of the fairest, and most calculated to a happy terminus, but “ the clouds are the dust of his feet," who never maketh a mistake about the road or means, but leadeth by “the right way to a city of habitation."
In the passage above quoted, the apostle sets before us the humility of Jesus, and the more excellent
." of our Lord when suffering unjustly at the hands of his enemies. Oh, how unlike us! how ready are we in such circumstances to take the word, as did Peter! But “they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword," was the corrective and directive voice of his Master. May we not, all of us, learn a useful lesson here, and pray for grace at all such seasons to be enabled to put up our sword again into its place, and remember that if it is necessary, our Father can send us twelve legions of angels, for more are they that are with us than all that can be against us ;" and we are told that “they that suffer with Him, shall also reign with him.” And Christ himself said to his disciples (Mat. v. 11, 12), “ Blessed are ye when men shall revile you.” Oh, then, let us take not the carnal, but the spiritual weapons, the sword of the Spirit, the weapon of prayer, and “commit ourselves to him that judgeth righteously.” “ He will bring forth our righteousness to the light.”. And though it may be that Christians are called sometimes to feel that their actions are regarded unjustly by brethren or sisters in the faith, they may, like Job, say, " Thou most upright doth weigh the path of the just ;" "He knoweth the way that I take, and when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." And they are still to act with the same tender cries, “to ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves and to all men” (1 Thess. v. 15); and what a glorious incitement have they to that end. in these words, “ Forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you ;” and hath God indeed forgiven our ten thousand talents, and shall we not forgive our brother's meagre debt of one hundred pence? Would not our injustice in such a case call forth the justice of him who, as the prophet says, “is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”
Varied are the circumstances the child of God is called into, and as ofttimes the new path is an untrodden path, they, from the weakness of human reason, make sad mistakes; they have not yet had their senses sufficiently exercised to discern when good cometh, and to reckon, as did Paul, that all things work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose, or realize the glorious fact expressed in the lines
“Light are the pains that nature brings,
How short our sorrows are;
The present we compare.”
you, dear reader, in heaviness for a season through manifold temptations, ready to conclude it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you ? Peter says, for your encouragement. Nothing can“ befall you but such as is common to man;" and your Father will make a way for escape, that you may be able to bear it.
" One who has known in storms to sail,
Thou hast on board;
Dost hear thy Lord ?" His word to thee is this, " I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Go to Him, then, with all thy castings down, he will raise thee ; cast all thy care upon him, for hé who measures out your burdens in righteousness is mighty to save, he careth for you ; order all thy case before Him who sitteth upon the throne judging right ; and thou shalt yet be enabled to appropriate the words of a now glorified saint, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.
Should one read this whose opening eyes can scarcely bear the revelation the piercing ray of Divine light is making in his soul, perhaps writing bitter things hastily against himself, trembling at the thought that he is weighed in the balances and found wanting. Ah! thou art also wanting in judgment, for had the Lord intended to destroy thee, he would not have shown thee these things ; and he invites thee to make use of him, the Rock of Ages, for want of a shelter : “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden. Commit, then, thy soul to him who is thy Judge, yet thy Saviour ; learn of him who was meek and lowly in heart, to “commit thyself unto Him that judgeth righteously.”
THOUGHTS ON PSALM LXI. 2.
“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
THERE are many passages in the Scriptures which are like honey-drops on the soul, and, imperceptibly, they form part of the Christian's upward desires when pressed with care and trouble. When he is wearied by the trials of life, when sorrow possesses his soul, when temptations beset his pathway, when doubts are insinuated into his mind, when Satan comes in like a flood, the secret desires of the Spirit-taught soul will find expression in the words of some Old Testament saint, such as those of David, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
These words are an expression of a sorrow-stricken soul, who has known the joy of salvation, who has rested beneath the shadow of the great rock in a weary land, and drank of the stream which flowed from the smitten rock. David says, the end of the earth will I cry.” He was then in deep trouble ; he was as it were far from his God, yet his secret desires went out after Him whom he loved. His thoughts went back to his old experience ; for he remembered that God had been
a shelter” for him, and a strong tower from the enemy (v. 3); and, therefore, he says, “From the ends of the earth will I cry.”. Here is encouragement for the tempest-tossed believer. Although he be far off
, he has life, for he can cry, and a crying soul like David (v. 8) will soon be a praising soul.
David's prayer was pressed from him by weariness of soul, by felt distance, by distress and affliction. His strength seems to have been almost gone, and he prays, “ Lead me.” He cannot go alone, nor can he guide his footsteps aright, for he is like a little child, without wisdom and without strength, who looks to his father to guide him, and even more, to lead him. When a strong man takes his own little one, who can only just walk, the father's strength seems to be iinported into the child : he does not direct the child by words, but takes his hands and gently leads him. So with the Christian ; but with this difference, that the strength of the human father is finite, and soon exhausted ; but the strength of the heavenly Father is infinite, and, as it were, wrapped around the timid and fearful believer, who thus has the “strength of Israel” for his own. He has walked before with his Father ; he has felt the Father's gentle hand taking his own, and obtained renewed strength ; he has (as Isaiah expresses it in chap. xxvii. 5) taken hold of the strength of God, even Christ, and found peace. His fear has gone: his steps have become firm, and he has rejoiced again in the company of his gracious Deliverer. There is a peculiar beauty in the use of the words, “ Lead me. It is not, “shew me," nor
guide me," nor“ direct me,” nor "bless me,”—but," lead me." the offspring of soul-weariness, sadness, and loneliness. The act of leading implies, and in fact necessitates companionship; and the companionship is that of a gracious and loving Father. No one can lead, unless he be also in the company of him whom he leads. We cannot conceive of leading and distance at the same time. Hence David's prayer is a beautiful expression of the inward desire of the
This prayer is