Page images

sands of difficulties, you have been upheld even to old age. The Savionr baving drawn, you have followed him ; and many “ Ebenezers” have you raised. It was not a painful restraint upon the mind, -not the casting around you of an iron chain, as it were, that held you back from sin. It is that you have been kept secretly and invisibly by an influence from heaven. The very heart-strings of the believer are in the hands of Christ on his throne, and Christ has taken those heart-strings, and leads the heart whithersoever he will ; thus the people of God are kept till old age. Whilst this process is going on, a great many things take place in the heart. I may have some hearers this morning who may say, I cannot understand why a man cannot do as he pleases ? Well, in a sense that is right ; but in another sense, it is not. I will tell you how it is. The mind of a child of God is re-cast, or re-formed, in a gospel mould. When we speak of“ a change of mind,” you do not understand that. Of course not, but it is so. The mind of a child of God is re-formed ; and I lay the emphasis upon the first part of the word, “re.” The mind is re-formed, and it becomes a Christian mind ; and a mind so formed can never lose its character, world without end." This people have I formed for myself, and they shall show forth my praise." "The Holy Ghost enters into the man; and how long does he dwell there? For ever. And does he never leave the mind of a man he has so entered into ? No. Sin is made a bitter thing to him, and Jesus Christ is made more precious to the heart than tongue can tell

. The depravity of the heart and the temptations of the devil are increasingly felt ; nevertheless in old age there is a fertility and fruitfulness peculiar to that period.

But this is not all. The Christian not only perseveres because he himself is infinitely dear to Christ, but also because Christ is infinitely dear to the saint. So dear is the church of God to the Redeemer, that he made a way to heaven through his very wounds. The wounds of Christ are over me, and protect me ; on my right hand and on my left hand, to save me. The child of God is so dear to Jesus Christ, that he has rooted the believer into himself. Christ is an infinite person, and he cannot love a little. The love of Jesus Christ is eternity itself ; and can it be thought wonderful, therefore, that a child of God should persevere till he is old ? If Christ keeps hold of his children, they shall keep up.

There is a union established between Christ and his people. “I am the vine ; ye are the branches.” As the branch is in the vine, and derives its sap, and vigour, and fruit from the root with which it is united, so the believer is iv Christ, and derives the “fatness” mentioned in my text, all from the dear Redeemer. Now, if the believer can die, one of three things must happen. 1. Life in Christ must fail : the root of the vine must cease to have life. If that should happen, the believer would die. If that should happen, all in heaven would die, and everyone, spiritually, on the earth would die ; and there would be an annihilation of spirituality upon the earth. But the life of Christ on high is an eternal life. 2. The life that is in Christ must be withheld if they can die. But what has Christ this life for ? For communication. 3. Or, if the believer can cease to be a believer, and die, he must be separated. But the Bible tells me that the believer cannot be separated. There is guilt, -that is annihilated. There is Satan,-he is chained. There are persecutors,—they have never been able to separate a saint from Christ. There is God,-he will never separate us from Christ. “Neither height, nor depth, nor any other creature :: shall separate us from Christ. God's will concerning his people is that they shall never be cast out, and that they shall be raised up at the last day. All forms of grace were put into Christ for God's people. There may be stripping providences, and you may be left as a kind of wreck ; but those painful circumstances never clash with God's will concerning his dear people. But we shall know everything hereafter. All that was mysterious to us when on earth will be cleared up in the broad daylight of heaven. What, therefore, can destroy a child of God ?

II. The immortal vigour and fruitfulness of the Christian. "They shall be fat ;'' that is, they shall have an abundance of grace. "They shall be flourishing," that is, green. Here nature is contrasted with grace. They shall bear fruit in old age. In old age the body becomes feeble, the eyes dim, and in many physical power is

without grace.

quite gone, and perhaps the memory itself fails ; but the grace of God progresses. The Christian's course is brightest at the end of life : it shines more strikingly when the hair is grey. Shall I tell you what "fruit" hangs upon an old believer. The fruit of an old believer is so conspicuous that a young believer cannot help seeing it; and you cannot find that fruit on a young believer. In the youth there is the bud ; in the young man there is the blossom ; and in the old man there is the fruit. In the young believer,-and, my dear young friends, accept what I say in the spirit in which it is offered,--there is much surface, but it is not very deep ; but as he gets older his religion gets more simple. You hear an old believer pour forth his heart before God, how simple he is! He does not try to catch the human ear,—he is with his God. There is a quiet trust and dependence on God. There is a bunch of heavenly fruit hanging on the old believer, which there is not on myself nor on my young brothren. He looks back upon forty or fifty years, and he looks back with gratitude ; and this old believer is able to point out the way to the young believer. He will say,—“My dear young believer, when you have passed through what I have, you will thank and adore your God.”

I do not know a more melancholy sight than to see an old man who has not the grace of God. We meet with an old person who is hale and hearty, and who is said to be very good company; but still it is a melancholy sight to see him

But here is a blessed unregretted old age. Nay, in old age we are nearer home. The old saint knows he is near to heaven ; I may be ; he knows he is. Are there any regrets ? Oh no. “I am waiting and watching," he says, “ for the return of my Lord.” Do you fear death? “No, I am waiting for my Lord to come and fetch me."

It seems, then, that the young and the aged make up the church of God. If we were all young, we should go too fast; and (forgive me, my old friends,) if we were all old we should go too slow. We want all the fire of youth, and the experience of old age, to direct us; and, therefore, it is wisely arranged, to have " babes, young men, and fathers," in the church of God.

The grace of God, it seems, progresses towards perfection. When an old saint is on his dying bed, his fruit is riper than it ever was before ; his faith is stronger ; everything is stronger and deeper, and more silent in the old than in the young believer. And what is to arise out of this ? “To show that the Lord is upright." "He is my rock,” says David, “on him I have stood, and in him I have found shelter.” If there is one word that is more becoming in an old saint on his dying bed, than another, it is this. “ Listen,” says the old saint, just as he is stepping out of the flesh, “my God has never done me any wrong, he has thwarted my purposes, stripped me of my comforts, and led me over mountains ; yet my dying testimony is,--that he has been faithful to his promise, and as to his conduct there has never been any unrighteousness in him.” On what I have said may the Lord command his blessing, for Christ's sake. Amen.


BY SAMUEL COULING. OUR entire dependence upon Divine grace for all true success in our ministry will not be denied by any who bear the vessels of the sanctuary, and who are called of God to minister in word and doctrine. We are dependent upon Divine grace for our qualifications for the ministry. No man can be a true minister of Jesus Christ who is not influenced by grace, called to the work by the Holy Spirit, and instructed by the Lord. And we are also equally dependent upon Divine grace for the effect attendant upon our ministrations. We may preach, but it is the Lord who works. It is only the Spirit of all truth who can bless His own word with power, so that sinners are converted and believers built up upon their holy faith. “ It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” Some men preach now-a-days as though they hardly knew whether there


were any Holy Ghost or not. And even among those who know and love the truth as it is in Jesus, the Holy Spirit is not unfrequently dishonoured by the little reference we make to his person and work, and by our apparent resting upon the means, instead of looking above the means to Him who alone can bless. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves ; but our sufficiency is of God.” This was Paul's estimate of himself in reference to the work of the ministry. And in all his labours, and in all his successes, he was ever ready to say, “ Not I, but the grace of God which was with me;"- —so that “neither is be that planteth anything, neither be that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.".

The Holy Spirit of God, then,-himself a distinct, personal, Divine agent,-is the only true source of all ministerial success. Thus we are told that it was the Lord who opened the heart of Lydia to attend to the things spoken by Paul ; and that to the Thessalonians “Our gospel came not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost.", The Corinthians were declared to be " the epistle of Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God." The Gentiles were made “ obedient by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God.” My speech and my preaching," says Paul, “ were not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Peter also states that he had “preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” And the marvellous effect produced by his preaching on the day of Pentecost, when three thousand were converted and added unto the church, will sufficiently prove that the Holy Spirit was working mightily, and in all the plenitude of His power, blessing the word spoken. In fact, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the word was always clearly recognized by the apostles and the primitive believers ; and hence they found themselves always strong in the midst of their weakness. We want now, and still, that deep, heartfelt, abiding conviction that without him preventing, assisting, crowning, we are nothing, and less than nothing, -nothing in all our studies, -nothing in our pulpit labours,-nothing in our pastoral visitation. We want to feel that although we may plan skilfully and execute our plans with exactitude,-may bring to bear upon our work all our natural gifts, our intellectual powers, our cultivated imagination, our classical lore, our eloquence, our accumulated stores of theological knowledge ;yet, and notwithstanding all these, we are nothing without the living, breathing, saving power of the Spirit of God. He will only be honoured as we realize that our wisdom is but foolishness, our strength but weakness, our eloquence but as sounding brass, without his presence and power. There is a great deal of outward show and outward work which passes for success, but all the outside work and show amounts to nothing, unless the Spirit blows upon the dry bones that they

To honour the Spirit in our ministry, we must seek His guidance in the study; we must seek His enlightening influence rather than place our dependence upon commentators and divines, however excellent; we must feel that nothing short of Omnipotence can give efficiency and success to our labours ; our prayers must ever be that the Spirit of God may rest upon us. Oh! have we not sometimes prayed without the Spirit, studied without the Spirit, preached without the Spirit, worked without the Spirit ? If so, no wonder that we have been self-confident in our own spirits, perfunctory in our labours, cold and dead in our devotions, and unblessed in our work.

" Lord revive us;

All our help must come from Thee !" The Spirit's blessing, however, will be given to those who exalt and honour Christ. Paul preached nothing but “ Christ crucified,” and his preaching was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." The Spirit will honour the gospel of Christ. “He," said the Saviour, “shall testify of me.” Let us, then, preach Christ only as revealed in his gospel, and his Spirit will take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us.


may live.



“WHATSOEVER was written aforetime was written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.”

Nearly two thousand years B.C., - and yet the scene appears so vividly before us,-a feast in the city of Zuph, people gathered, the feast prepared; but all waits for that without which all is vain and worthless, the blessing of the priest, who, in the name of Jehovah, blesses the provision, and thus gladdens the hearts of the assembled multitude.” How blessedly suggestive of the gospel ! hence we haste to speak of the Feast, The coming of the Priest, and The consequent joy of the people.

This feast has been provided, prepared, and proclaimed. But does the deserve the name of a feast ? Most certainly ; for of it may we not say, “ The gospel is an exhibition of untold wealth, - vast as the knowledge of God, various and suitable to the needs of the impoverished and perishing man ?" The Holy Spirit has laid the scene of this feast in the church : “In this mount shall a feast be made." It is only in the gospel, as that unfolds the true church of the living God, that this feast is to be beheld ; here, also, is it to be realized ; and here only can it be enjoyed. In the marvellous works of his hands, our God has challenged our awe and admiration; in his providence, he has displayed depths of mystery and heights of wisdom ; but in the gospel he displays the riches of his grace, since here is Godlike majesty in the person of his Son,-here is unparalleled power in the person and work of the Holy Ghost; here, too, are promises founded on the covenant of grace.

But, let us hasten to the feast. What abundance ! we exclaim; and well we may, since Jehovah provides ; and yet, again, we utter our surprise,—for all is from Himself. Man depends on man, and feasts among men are gatherings of the earth's produce ; in fact, the bringing together of earth's dainties, at the expense of money, time, and power. Whence comes the abundance of the gospel feast? It is all of love. It is His feast, who is love, -it displays his love ; it is full and fragrant of love; and yet it is but a specimen of love, it is but the earnest of love ; and again, it is but intended to whet and sharpen the appetite for that higher feast, of which it is written, “Blessed is he that is called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.. It is the provision of mercy also : love provides, but mercy spreads the feast. God's love always acts in concert with mercy. It is loving mercy, and merciful love. Love takes the lead, but mercy follows after. The mercy of God never fails to tread where love marks out the road.

How often men exclaim against their want of power, yet in all cases this seeming misery is but a higher aspect of mercy. Our God lacks no power. If he will, none can let or hinder. If he find the motive to salvation within himself, the power to accomplish salvation shall not be lacking. "Who can thunder like him?" and who can speak so tenderly and so lovingly as our God. He assumes the title of a Father, when he would command ; but when he would comfort, he is the tender Mother, who cannot forget.

This feast is full of power. Godhead veiled in humanity: here is the hiding of his power. Can God become a man? Will he be gracious to sinful men ? Can he have compassion on the ignorant, and those who are out of the way? Can he, “the just God,” be also the Saviour ? Let the Scriptures speak, while we hold our peace. Let Jehovah do wondrously, while we look on and wonderingly admire. He hath“ laid help upon One that is mighty ;" He hath “exalted one chosen out of the people.". Listen while Christ himself speaks, “The Lord God hath given the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” “The Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up. (Isa. 1.) Here are some of the qualifications of the Saviour; yet these are but the steps to the throne of his glory. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him," and it also pleased the Lord not to spare him. Hence Divine justice pursued the Saviour to the cross, nor left him there ; but became a thick cloud, which hid the Father's face, while the Divine sufferer exclaims, “ Eloi, Eloi! lama sabacthani ?My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me ?

Power attends the feast, compelling the bidden to come in. Power gives an appetite, as Truth sweetly invites. Power adds a zest, and hence sinners taste that the Lord is gracious. Power drives the rich and the full away ; while longing souls sing,

“Why was I made to hear thy voice,

And enter while there's room;
While thousands make a wretched choice,

And rather starve than come ?

“ 'Twas the same love that spread the feast

That sweetly forced me in;
Else I had still refused to taste,

And perished in my sin.”

We have said that Love provides the feast, that Mercy presides thereat, and that Power is never absent therefrom ; but, What is the feast? We know that “ To obey is better than sacrifice;" therefore that obedience which is crowned with sacrifice is well pleasing to Jehovah. We shall consequently find the feast is the personal work of Jesus Christ. In proof thereof, read his own words, “ For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”

All in Christ, and Christ in all, cannot receive a better illustration than in the truth,—that Jesus is Altar, Sacrifice, and Priest.

Salvation is provided for the people ; but the priestly work of our glorious Christ is needed, to bring its blessings nigh unto us; hence we are brought nigh by the blood of Jesus ; yea, we have boldness in access by the blood of Christ, “ For he blesses the sacrifice, and then they eat which be called.” May we not say, that this is emphatically true, “The presence of Christ is essentially necessary to the fulness of the gospel, to the reality of salvation, and to the vitality of experience? Without the presence of Christ, the gospel were a fiction ; without the presence of Christ, salvation were a fable ; and without the presence of Christ, experience were a fancy and not a fact. Christ has come, and hence prophecy is verified. Christ abides, or remains a Priest, and therefore the feast is a blessed one : he shall be a Priest for ever; and therefore we may preach, salvation to the uttermost, for all who come to God by him.

And now let the people shout aloud for joy. Let the joyful sound be proclaimed by all the music of the temple, and be repeated by the voices of all the people, until, loud as thunder, and sweet as the utterances of the harps of heaven, this new song be sung,—“Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty ; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints." Norwich, June, 1869.



“Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every

one shall receive of thy words.”—Deut. xxxiii. 3.

(Continued from page 153.) Thirdly,-A word or two on the position the saints are brought to occupy : “They sat down at thy feet." All the saints. These are the they,the same highly honoured and grace-distinguished persons, who are in the hands of Christ. All of them sit down at his feet ; all are made subjects of his kingdom ;

« PreviousContinue »