Page images
PDF
EPUB

implements; and 2nd. we want assistance. The natural wells were deep in the Eastern parts, and the water had to be drawn up in a bucket let down by a rope. Now I was thinking that the Christian needs what is equivalent to these, namely, faith and prayer. Faith is the gift of God, and prayer is the voice of a living soul." Yea, it is the beat or throb of a renewed heart. True prayer is, as it were, a key that gives the soul entrance into God's presence : “ The prayer of the righteous is God's delight.” (Prov. xv. 29). Yes, the inward sigh, the penitent tear, the repentant cry, are prayers which reach even to heaven.

« God be merciful to me a sinner, was a prayer that brought a sense of pardon and justification to the publican's soul. So if ye would enjoy the sweetness of God's word and desire to draw comfort from the promises therein contained, send forth your cable, even prayer, trusting alone on Jesus Christ, looking to him by faith to fulfil the desire of your soul. And thus your prayer, indited by the Spirit (as indeed all heartfelt prayers are) accompanied by faith and hope, will bring the promised blessing down; for we read that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much ;" and again, “If ye ask, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matt. xxi. 22). Or as in the case of the Šamaritan woman, Christ said to her, “ If thou knewest the gift of God [faith), and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” So the soul that has faith looks to Jesus Christ, the Lamb for sinners slain, believing that he is able to save, and asks the Lord for what he wants. God will answer, and fill faith's bucket with living water, which will fill the soul with holy joy and love, and prove God ever ready to answer them that call upon him. Think not that our faith or prayers purchase the blessings, for we cannot command prayer or faith at our will, nor can we use them in our own strength ; but, if we, feeling our weakness, pray to God, he will send us as his word declares, the Spirit of truth, and he like the south wind, will blow upon the garden of the soul, and cause the spices to flow out. (Sol. Song xiv. 16). Yes, faith, and hope, and love, will begin to flourish, and the soul will be enabled by faith to lay hold of God's salvation. Hope will rest upon it, and from the blessings of the same—the blessings of a participation in it, love and joy will spring up. So then we see that if we wish to draw water from the “wells of salvation," we must not forget to look up, but by prayer, letting our requests be known to God, and faith resting on Christ, with joy shall we draw water from the “ wells of salvation;" and if faith's bucket be small, then send the cable of prayer to heaven and ask for a larger one, saying, “ Lord, increase our faith.Dear reader, if you lack anything, whether it be faith, wisdon, strength, pardon, or peace, fear not to go to the throne of grace, and ask of Him “who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” But for these things he will be inquired of by the house of Israel to do this for them.

Lastly, the effect-Joy:

With joy shall ye draw water. The sight of these wells makes the soul pant for the water, and the taste of them creates joy ; yes, the very sound that there is such water makes the soul like the hart panting for the waterbrooks, pant for a sip of this water,--this living water, which tastes so much of Jesus, of which Jesus is the quenching and assuaging qualities. O to be blest to say, “Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid !” This may well cause joy, and make him to become the soul's “song.'

And now, dear reader, if desiring after Jesus Christ, may you be privileged to draw water from the “wells of salvation” with joy : be blessed by the Spirit's aid, so to draw water, draw comfort, by prayer to and faith in God froin the precious “wells of salvation,” the wells of his love, mercy, free salvation, and gospel promises, that you, with the Psalmist, may be led to exclaim,“ My cup runneth over;" and I will praise him as long as I live, who is the giver of these precious wells, the supplier and spring head of the water they contain ;-the life of them ;-the bestower of that by which poor sinners are enabled to draw water ; and is their strength, by which enabled, they cry.-" To Him, be all the glory ascribed, Father, Son, and Spirit for ever and ever.'

J. HARRIS.

GRACE AND PROVIDENCE.

“There is not that in providence which is calculated to save the soul."-J. Hazelton.

We are accustomed to speak of the “grace of God," and the “providence of God," as distinct, in so far as they relate to different aspects of our existence; and as they are respectively associated with the inner and outer life of the Christian. Providence is God's general care of his creatures; it is the exercise of infinite wisdom and power, combined with beneficence for the good of man : and it is, we think, perfectly consistent with the idea that pain and suffering should exist in the world. Grace is described as blessing, unaccompanied by any sorrow, (Prov. x. 22), It is God's particular favour, and it is not at all consistent with this view of it to suppose, either pain or suffering. Providence governs the world, and in the sovereignty of its government, the blessings of heaven are not equally dispensed to all. Esau is rich, and his sons are “dukes of Edom,” while Jacob is a "plain man dwelling in tents.” The ungodly are rich,“ in whose eyes the poor are despised ;" but (by grace) the poor in this world's goods are “ rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.". Read also Luke i. 53. Now, is there not in the passages quoted, an ample explanation of the problematical nature of divine providence? But there is one instance yet more impressive, viz., the story of Dives and Lazarus : Luke xvi. 19-31. Who dare question the awful sovereignty of the providence which frowned on suffering Lazarus, while it smiled on effete and luxurious Dives ; and who can sufficiently admire the sovereignty of the grace which assigned the former a place in “ Abraham’s bosom ” and a position to behold without tasting the sufferings of the lost ?

In providence “all things come alike to all : there is one event that is death] to the righteous and to the wicked ; to the good, and to the clean, and to the unclean ; to him that sacrificeth and to him that sacrificeth not : as is the good so is the sinner, and he that sweareth as he that feareth an oath.” The same writer continues, “There is a vanity which is done upon the earth ;" it is this," that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked ; again, there be wicked men unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the just.” (Ecc. viii. 14).

" There's many of an humble birth,

To honour all unknown;
Who yet possess a native worth,

That would adorn a throne.
And though worth ever ought to rise,

Like a mild taper's flame:
It is not always that the wise

And good obtain a name.' But under the government of grace, things are not so ; there never yet was a just man really, though he might be apparently neglected of God, and never yet was there a human soul unrepentant, and laden with iniquity, that could escape the inexorable and fatal grasp of that hand“ which distributes sorrows in his anger.” “ Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him ?" No, for “heaven hides nothing from thy view, nor the deep tract of hell."

We are so easily excited to fear, and doubts are unhappily so natural to us, that it is necessary we should go out of ourselves, as it were, to understand, and dispassionately to survey much that presses itself upon our unwelcome attention. We forget that “God dealeth with us as with sons," and we frequently despise the wholesome discipline of adverse circumstances. It is no mean achievement to be able to say, with the poet, “ What is, is best ?” I have often wondered how it was that Pope arrived at a conclusion so uniform with the highest attainment of Christian virtue. It is pretty certain that he did not view things from the same standpoint as the apostle Paul, when he said, “For we know that all things work together for good," and yet, singularly enough, the two'expressions are remarkable for their unanimity. It is equally certain that we cannot regard Pope as having an adequate appreciation of God's designs in general ; nor can we credit him with any of the faith and grace, which enabled the Apostle thus to teach. It is a beautiful sentiment, however, and is made illustrious by receiving the confirmation of the word of God. The student of Scripture and Christian philosopher, will see at once that the height of this great argument is only to be attained by the resistless logic of the Bible. It is only the spiritual eye that is strong enough to see the veiled glories of God's more perfect system. It is not the ears, half-deafened by the harsh and discordant notes of earth, that can catch the soft-breathing melody of the far off and better land, nor hath it entered into the heart that is inattentive to divine things, to conceive what exquisite joy which, even here below, God bestows upon them that love him. Upon the subject of divine providence, is it not remarkable that the Scriptures elude our curiosity at every point ? Mark the divine conduct to Abraham (Acts vii. 5). God had said, “To thy seed will I give this land,” (Gen. xii. 5); and yet Abraham himself must have * none inheritance in it; no, not so much as to set his foot on," and, therefore, we read of the purchase of the sepulchre of Machpelah.”, Mark also Abraham's knowledge of the divine will, and his acquiesence therein, (Gen. xxiii). The portion of land he required is offered to him as a gift from a section of the Canaanites, but he may not accept it on those terms. I

pray thee hear me; I will give thee money for the field : take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.". Does not this refer to something in the every-day experience of the Christian ? Heaven is ours by promise, but the fact that we are joint-heirs with Christ to an inheritance undefiled, and that passeth not away, blessed though it be, invests us with no earthly dignity, and imparts no privileges which others do not possess. Here, therefore, we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. Here we have,

“First sin and sorrow, then the great exemption,
First a hard bondage then a free redemption;
First tribulation and affliction's story;
And death's cold waters, then eternal glory;
First tented settlements of time,

And then celestial mansions." 3

Rufus.

THE BELIEVER'S UNION TO CHRIST. An Outline of a Sermon preached at Salem Chapel, Wilton-square, London, on the

death of Mrs. Wilson Milbourne, by W. FRITH, of New Bexley, on Lord's-day evening, Dec. 27th, 1868.

“My beloved is mine, and I am his.”—Song Sol. ii. 6.

In the sympathy of my human heart I grieve over the necessity for being here ; while I trust, in humble submission to the arrangements of the all-wise God, I can say, “Thy will be done." I say, I grieve over the necessity for my presence, or, I should say, over that event that has occasioned me to be invited. When I first received the black-edged envelope containing the sad news of the death of my dear departed friend and sister in Christ, Mrs. Milbourne, though not altogether unexpected, it was a source of very deep grief,—not because she was not ready, nor because her departure was not her gain ; but because of her beloved husband, my long-tried friend, and whom the Lord' blest to my conversion, now some fifteen years ago ; and because of the nine dear motherless children who survive to meet the storms of life. And it is only the result of my brother's importunate solicitation that I am here in this position. Had it been possible, I should have preferred her beloved pastor performing this last kind office. That, however, was impossible, and it now devolves upon me, and for the discharge of which I feel very unequal.

F

sure.

May the Lord graciously help me. I have known the departed some sixteen years or more.

was in membership with her in the Baptist church, Butteslandstreet, Hoxton, and have been on terms of familiar friendship ever since. These words are given, at her request, to be spoken to. They suggest four things.

I. Distinguished Relationship. This is the first idea these words suggest to us. And oh what a relationship! What human analogy is worthy to illustrate it? It is the address of the saint to her Saviour, and implies a relationship higher, nobler, greater, and more blessed than any human relationship could illustrate. And whether you regard the relationship under the idea of an espousal or an adoption, its dignity, and glory, and blessedness are the same. And if you regard it as an espousal, you know the original disparity between the persons—a disparity altogether unequalled by any historical fact. On the one side, you have the Espouser, who was higher than the kings of the earth,—the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person ; and in comparison of whom the most distinguished earthly potentate is insignificant. On the other, you have one who is less than nothing and vanity ; who is altogether as an unclean thing, --without virtue, excellence, or purity, or anything to distinguish and commend. And then you have the astonishing but revealed fact that this distinguished Espouser makes this degraded one his own by an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and

And thus we have brought out a relationship so distinguished that no earthly analogy will fully represent it. And again we say, What a relationship !-How astonishing in its origin, in its nature, its blessing, and its permanency !

In its origin,—for it originated with Him who said, "I will betroth thee unto me for ever." “ Thy Maker is thy husband ; the Lord of hosts is his name."

In its nature,—for it is the alliance of the finite with the infinite ; of him who is the altogether lovely with that which was alienated from the life of God.

In its blessings,—for He who was heir of all things hath blessed her with "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,”—with unsearchable riches ; so that she who sat on the dunghill is made to sit among princes, and has exchanged the penury of her degradation for the riches of her distinguished relationship.

In its perpetuity. It is as much distinguished for this as for either of the other qualities or excellencies. Ah! tell us not of the perpetuity of human relationship. Ålas ! for every earthly tie. Upon every document that witnesses the alliance of any human creatures should be inscribed, Uncertain." Oh how soon and how suddenly are the bonds that bind the relationships of earth rent asunder! How soon the silver cord is broken! How soon the golden ring that glittered in the sunlight of the bridal morning is taken from that cold, icy hand that moves no more! To us in these there is no security. Our espousals and our betrothals are soon followed by our Pisgahs and our Machpelahs. But oh how delightful and blessed are the truths embodied in my text! Here is a relationship that is never broken, never severed. It is a union begun in sovereign grace and condescending favour, sustained all through by unchanging love, and affected by death only to bring the objects near to each other. Oh yes ! -death, whatever it is, and whatever it does, does not affect this relationship. It simply takes the ransomed spirit, from the clay-built tabernacle, and places it among the spirits of the just made perfect,-- brings the weary pilgrim up out of the wilderness into the banqueting house of everlasting love. And, my dear friends, what I have said in the abstract has its application to our beloved and departed sister. She was espoused by almighty grace, that she might be presented as a chaste virgin to Christ. She knew, while here, this distinguished relationship in its origin, nature, and blessing ; and now she knows also, better than we, its blessed perpetuity. He who began a good work in her performed it till the day of Jesus Christ. She has not altered her relationship to Him who is her beloved, nor to you who are her fellow-heirs in the

She has left you, but she has gone to him. She has left your company, but now she has gone to higher. Truly it is a distinguished relationship.

II. Endearing communion. The one is based upon the other. Communion arises out of union. The one precedes, and the other follows. Where the one is, the other will not be absent. The one rises spontaneously out of the other. It is

grace of life.

natural, while it is spiritual, for the renewed soul to hold communion with the Lord. It is impossible for a soul renewed by divine grace not to desire to hold fellowship with the Lord. The experience of the regenerate is uniform and universal. In fact, though differing in degree, all can say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee ? and there is none upon earth I desire beside thee.” My soul thirsteth for the living God. Draw me, we will run after thee." Yes, we say this experience is universal among the regenerate. A holy pulse of holy desire beats in every human heart regenerate. As uniform as the law of gravitation is the holy, spiritual law of divine communion. The earth is the centre of attraction, and uniformly and everywhere material objects move towards it. So Christ is the centre of attraction to all believers, and their affections go out toward him ; and it is the very life and blessedness of the Christian to hold communion with the Lord. It is the fellowship of kindred minds. It is the balm of his life, and the joy of his pilgrimage ; and he can often say, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

And our beloved sister knew something of this communion. For some years she had known the Lord; and I believe that, as her knowledge increased, her experience deepened, and her fellowship was more blessed. The very last time I saw her, she spoke to me of the ministry of her beloved pastor, and how increasingly blest his ministry was to her. Yes, she had fellowship with Zion, and communion with her Lord here. She could truly say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his."

Nor is this communion broken. It has rather become closer. It was blessed to her in life : it was very blessed to her in the hour of death,-but it is surpassingly blessed now.

Death has done nothing but intensify this communion. It has not marred it, hindered it, or interrupted it

. It has rather rendered it more delightful, more charming, more blessed. The intercourse is now direct, and the fellowship is perfect. All that marred the earthly communion is absent, and all that can render the heavenly communion blessed is present. She is now without fault before the throne, and conformed to the image of God's dear Son.

III. Present assurance. This idea, too, is embodied in these words: he “is mine," -“I AM his." And there are few texts that express this present assurance more fully than this does. And oh how blessed this is ! This is the climax of all earthly felicity. To know whom we have believed is, if not the highest, at least, a very high attainment. To be persuaded that he is able to keep that which we have committed to him, against that day, is no small source of earthly bliss ; and the position and the relationship of the Christian will always warrant this, even if he does not always realise it, -for the realization and the reality are two different things. The position and relationship of the Christian cannot alter : the realization may. The one depends upon God,—the other depends upon the vicissitude of human circumstances. The one can never be lost,—the other is capable of a variety of changes. There is always ground for present assurance, if there is not always the clearness of the evidence. The one is quite consistent with the other. The landscape loses none of its beauty by the gloom of night : all the beauty is there, though it is invisible. “Let the day dawn, and the day-star arise,” and the orient morn will disclose the vales of Windermere in all their beauty. So is it, Christian, with your assurance. There are times when you walk through darkness, and have no light : you cannot say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” But anon the day breaks, and the shadows flee away; and then you are able to say, “ His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.” Darkness but conceals the beauty : it does not destroy it. You may be in great heaviness, through manifold temptations ; yet he can give you the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

Present assurance, then, is a very blessed thing, yet not always realized. It is capable of being lost for a season, and again restored. But its basis is never altered. There is always ground for present assurance.

O that we could always have it ! O then the wilderness and the solitary place would be glad for theni! But of all times when it is desirable we should have this “great grace,” it is the hour of death ; and generally the dying saints realize it then. The ancient

« PreviousContinue »