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guiles the soul into self-deception, and must end in disappointment. Let us seek it where David did, from God, for there alone can it be
And was this the prayer of David?
Yes, of How comes this? Had he not already a new heart and a right spirit? Of this there can be no doubt, yet did such a prayer become him now. He is engaged in an exercise of deep humiliation for gross sin. The evidence of his conversion must have been greatly darkened by his offences. He had no legitimate title to count himself a child of God while sunk in such grievous criminality. It is well said by Thomas Scott, 'I would not give a farthing for that assurance which sin does not shake.' In David it was shaken, and so he comes to God as though he had never been a partaker of his grace, and cries to him for a new heart and a right spirit. Or if, in exercises of humiliation, he had been restored to a comfortable sense of pardon and acceptance, still would this prayer become him. He had sad evidence how little progress he had made in the divine life, how weak was his heart, how strong was remaining sin. He might well therefore cry out for growth in grace, and that in the strong language which he did employ. For although the work of regeneration be complete, yet is that of sanctification progressive; and as for the increase of holiness, we have reason daily to pray, 'Create a clean heart, O God; renew a right spirit within us.'
David the man after God's own heart.
Let us learn from this case not to rest in any reformation short of a thorough regeneration of the soul. Till that is effected, there is no vital godliness, no true religion, acceptable to God, and saving to the soul.
Let us learn how dangerous it is to have the evidences of our salvation darkened by sin. If we act so, we are laying the foundation of bitter exercises, and can be restored only through much tribulation.
Let us learn to set no limits to our desires after conformity to God. The longer we live, and the more we learn of him and of ourselves, of his purity and our sinfulness, so should we seek the destruction of the old man, and the confirmation, and advancement, and purification of the new man.
'I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am,' John xvii. 24.
THE people of Christ are here described as 'those whom the Father has given to him.' Yes, they were given to him in an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, before the world was. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.' How surprising! that in eternity the love of God should be placed upon any of his rebellious creatures, and a sure provision made for their deliverance. In accordance with this eternal covenant they are given, in another sense, to Christ now. And to this he alludes in the opening of his intercessory prayer. Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee; as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.' They are given to Christ now, by an act of adoption, that he may provide for them as his own children. The blessing he confers upon them is eternal life, not merely the future mansion, but the present possession of it. He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life.-Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life. He that hath the Son hath life.-Hear, and your souls shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.' Thus the people of Christ have now eternal life abiding in them;' for as Christ himself saith, 'this is life eternal to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.' His people have been given into his hand, and he has removed their guilt, clothed them with his own righteousness, renewed their hearts, reformed their ways, and he will preserve them, through life and in death, to the full enjoyment of eternal life in heaven.
And what glorious prospects are set before them there! They shall be with Christ. This will constitute the height of their blessedness. Even on earth how mighty the influence of the little acquaintance they have already with hin on both their holiness and their happiness. These originate in their knowledge of him, and as it progresses so they advance. But faith, by which they now obtain an indistinct view of their risen Lord, shall in heaven be turned into sight. And when they see him, what effect will this produce
on their purity and their bliss. 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.' The influence even of this prospect is great, and 'every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure.' What then must the reality, the enjoyment, be? Holiness and happiness mutually influence each other, and when there is entire conformity to Christ what shall be the enjoyment of him? The prophet has drawn aside the vail and given us a glimpse of the heavenly glory; and it is worthy of remark that the grand enjoyment ever appears to be the immediate presence of Christ. They are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.' Is not this the amount of the Saviour's own consolatory promise, 'I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go away, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also.' And this is the apostle's consummation of all the blessedness in store for his people: 'the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which remain and are alive shall be caught up unto the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Are we prepared for the presence of Christ? How should we feel, were he at this
moment to manifest himself? Would we hail him with joy, and be ready to enter into his rest? Let us remember that, to prepare them for this the people of Christ are 'given unto him.'
And to this glorious end they shall assuredly come, for this is the will of Christ. Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.' And he shall not, be disappointed. It has long been promised unto him, 'that he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.' And what will satisfy him? Nothing short of the eternal redemption of his people. See how he was exercised when his ministry was about to terminate on earth. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world.—I pray for them which thou hast given me.-Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me; while I was with them in the world I kept them in thy name, those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none
of them is lost.' So in eternity, he will not be satisfied that one, whom he has redeemed, that one of all those who have been given to him, should be wanting. How the fond father longs to see his scattered children home, and with what delight he surveys them all safely collected beneath the paternal roof again, after many wanderings and temptations! So Jesus waits and longs to see his people home in heaven. His mediatorial bliss will not be complete till then. And as he has the will, so he has the power. His eye is on them wherever they are, his arm is around them by land and sea, his bosom heaves with love to admit them to his rest, and make them sharers of his glory. I pray that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they all may be one in us.' Then shall the Saviour be satisfied and the blessedness of his people completed.
Have we, by our own consent, been given unto Christ? Do we set our heart on heaven as the object and consummation of our hopes? Shall we behold the glory of the risen Saviour, and be glorified with him for ever? O! that we may be enabled truly to say, 'our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.'
'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, 1 John ii. 1.
So then any man' may sin. Yes, all men do sin. What a strange perversity it is that has led some to teach there may be men free from sin. It is a sad misapprehension of the scriptures, for their testimony is so plain that he who runs may read and understand. There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not,' Eccl. vii. 20. 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,' 1 John i. 8. In many things we offend all,' James iii. 2. And the very persons addressed in the passage before us are true Christians, under the designation of 'little children.' Let us be careful not to resist the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the scriptures, for it is very displeasing to him, and blinding and hardening to the soul. Let no imagination of ours, however specious and beautiful, be placed in opposition to his truth, but let every hypothesis, and prejudice, and pre-con
ceived theory give way when it does not stand sorrow. The Christian cannot live in sin. the test of thus it is written.' And is not the a burthen heavier than he can bear. And his divine testimony in exact accordance with all life is a life of controversy with it, striving against experience and observation? Who will say I sin. am innocent? Who will lay aside the daily use of the Lord's prayer, on the ground that the petition, 'forgive us our trespasses,' has become inappropriate to his case? Or whom have we ever seen or known that we could account to be faultless? How can it be that any are so ignorant of themselves as to imagine they do not sin? If there be such persons, they have yet to learn the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. They need the Holy Spirit to convince them of sin. All who know themselves must say, 'our hearts condemn us.' And if so, how must we be in the sight of him 'who is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things?' The enlightened conscience can have no peace, under a sense of the divine cognizance and judgment, save in the apprehension of the righteousness of Christ. The cry of such a one is, 'behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of thine Anointed.' There the soul does rest, and can bear the scrutinizing eye of God, but there only. As for himself and his attainments, the more holy he grows he becomes the more humble. As he increases in knowledge he thinks the more lowly of himself. And there is nothing wonderful in hearing an apostle proclaim himself to be 'the chief of sinners.' There are times when the most advanced Christians are ready to make the same complaint of themselves. All have sinned, and do sin, and come far short of the glory of God.
But let us beware we do not abuse this humbling confession. It is not made by one who desires to live in sin, and uses it as an excuse. On the contrary, it proceeds from the hatred of sin, and the jealousy of himself as a servant of the Lord. He does not willingly commit sin. When at any time he is overtaken by temptation, and hurried, in an evil hour, into sin, it is his burthen and grief. We see the operation of gracious principles in David and Peter when they were drawn aside for a season. Let the humiliation of the 51st Psalm be witness for the former, and the flood of penitential tears for the latter. They did sin, but they could find no pleasure in it. They were wretched and uneasy, and found no rest until they returned to God in deepest humiliation, and were restored to the enjoyment of his favour. It is not the mark of a believer that he never sins, for then could no one have the consolation to know that he was a believer; but it is the mark of a believer that whenever he is betrayed into sin he is overtaken also with godly
Let us be careful, when at any time we have sinned, not to delay exercises of humiliation. There is a reluctance then to come before God. We shall be tempted to hide our sin, and there is danger of the heart being hardened. Let us be watchful here. As soon as conscience upbraids us let us hear its faithful warning, and go and confess our sin. This will operate most favourably and powerfully on our sanctification. We shall not be so likely to fall into the sin again for which we have written bitter things against ourselves. Particularly should we be watchful to adopt this course with respect to our besetting sins. They are most likely to have dominion over us. But if we are accustomed, whenever we have committed them, to go with lowly confession and self-condemnation to God, we shall gain the dominion over them. God will bless the exercises, and his grace will confirm us in the habit of resistance. And this is essential to our comfort. God has graciously so ordained it that the souls of his people must bear dispeace while sin is allowed upon them. But when they have been duly exercised for it, he graciously restores them for his name's sake. And it may even prove that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound in elevating them to higher joys, and confirming them in holier habits than before-their very sins, wonderful to think! being made to contribute to their sanctification.
And O! what gracious encouragement we have to humble ourselves thus before God seeing 'we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.' He is on the right hand of God, and pleads the merit of his own work, for the remission of his people's sins. Hence the ground of his advocacy is declared, 'he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.' The merit of his death is infinitely efficacious. There is no sin in all the world but it is equal to remove. At the same time he acts the part of an intercessor, and presents our humiliations before the throne of God. These are worthless in themselves; but presented by him, and perfumed with the incense of his mediation, they are accepted, and we are restored and blessed. Nor does it suffice to procure our pardon, he confers grace suited to the time of need. He sends out his Holy Spirit in his gifts and graces. He restores the joy of his salvation, and upholds us with his free Spirit.
thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.' We have a great High Priest,
'He ever liveth to make intercession for them, Jesus the Son of God. Our intercessor is the Heb. vii. 25.
'HE ever liveth!'-and is therefore competent to make intercession. 'He ever liveth,'-and sustains an uninterrupted intercession. He ever liveth,'-for the very purpose of making intercession. Let us pursue these thoughts for a little.
living One, and therefore competent to save. With what confidence may we come to him! He can give us what we need. He can prevail with God for us. 'As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son also to have life in himself.' And he dispenseth it to whom he will.
2. In this relation he has ever stood to the 1. Because Jesus' ever liveth,' he is competent church of God, and sustains an uninterrupted into the office of an intercessor between God and tercession. How largely is this feature of our There is a great peculiarity of person Intercessor's priesthood here illustrated and ennecessary to occupy such a position. He must forced? He is described as a priest for ever have power with God and man that he may pre- after the order of Melchizedec.' And see the vail. No. sinner therefore can be a prevalent extraordinary history and position of that mysintercessor, not even a created angel, for neither terious person, that herein he might be a proper possesses any claim upon God by which he can type of our ever-living High Priest, 'Without plead for the benefit of others. Behold the con- father, without mother, without descent, having stitution of the Saviour's person, and see how neither beginning of days nor end of life, but suited he is to the office. He is God, and may made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest therefore treat with the Father; while he is man, continually.' On all these points the world was and may appear for men. He who would under-left in ignorance that he might the more fitly be take the redemption of sinners must be a par- a type of him to whom eternity literally belongs. taker of their nature; but to be competent to the But not merely was the Intercessor's person work he must possess power that is divine. And eternal, but his priesthood also. He sustained it such is Jesus. 'The Redeemer of God's elect from the first in accordance with the eternal is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal covenant. And he has exercised it, and shall Son of God, became man, and so was, and con- continue to do so, while there shall be betinueth to be God and man in two distinct na- lievers to need its benefits. So early as the time tures and one person for ever.' 'Great without of Job it sustained the hearts of the faithful. It controversy is the mystery of godliness, God was was in a season of darkness and temptation that, manifest in the flesh.' And this is the very argu- losing sight of the great Intercessor, he exclaimed, ment of the apostle in the passage before us. He is not a man as I am that we should come 'Wherefore he is able to save them to the utter- together in judgment, neither is there any daysmost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever man betwixt us that might lay his hand upon us liveth to make intercession for them. For such both.' And it was the apprehension of the Median High Priest became us, who is holy, harm- ator that again filled him with peace and joy, less, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made and caused him to exclaim, I know that my higher than the heavens. Who needeth not Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand in the daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, latter day upon the earth; and though after my first for his own sins, and then for the people's, skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh for this he did once, when he offered up himself. shall I see God.' Afterwards, when the law For the law maketh men high priests which have was given to Israel, it was through the great infirmity, but the word of the oath, which was Intercessor, for it is written, 'It was ordained since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated by angels in the hand of a Mediator.' At length for evermore.' O the depth of the riches of the he came, the substance of all the ceremonies of wisdom and knowledge of God! He saw, and the law, and declared his own doctrine, 'I am he only, what was essential to the character of the way, and the truth, and the life; no man an intercessor. And, blessed be his name, he pro- cometh unto the Father but by me.' And when vided what was needed. Hence the miraculous he had finished his work, and rose triumphant, conception and birth of Jesus by the virgin Mary and was about to ascend, he did so in a way very —a man, but sinless-the assumption of humanity illustrative of his intercession. He lifted up his by the Son of God. The Holy Ghost shall hands and blessed them, and while he blessed come upon thee, and the power of the Highest them, he was taken from them and carried up shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy into heaven.' He was afterwards revealed to the
prophet in the same character, for he stood as a | he came and sought fruit thereon, and found lamb that had been slain,' intimating that he did none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vine-so in the capacity of an intercessor, pleading his yard, Behold, these three years I came seeking own atoning death. Well therefore might the fruit on this fig-tree and found none; cut it down; apostle infer, 'This man, because he continueth why cumbereth it the ground? And he answerever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.' ing said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, 3. And he continueth,' 'ever liveth,' for the till I shall dig about it, and dung it. And if it bear very purpose of maintaining his intercession. To fruit, well, and if not, then after that thou shalt this was he set apart in the councils of eternity. cut it down.' All this indulgence was granted, For this was he anointed by the Holy Spirit in these advantages conferred, but in vain, the nation the fullness of time. And in this does he delight persevered in unbelief, and resisted the ministry himself in the courts of heaven above. He is of the Son of God, till at length he proceeded. occupied in preparing his people upon earth for reluctantly but determinedly, to pronounce its their removal thence, and in receiving them to doom: 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would his own rest when their work is finished here. I have gathered thy children together, even as a On earth he gives them of his Spirit, washes them hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and in his blood, guides their steps, sustains their ye would not! Behold your house is left unto labours, and presents their prayers; in heaven he you desolate, and verily I say unto you, Ye shall carries them to the throne, acquaints them with not see me till ye shall say, Blessed is he that its holy habitations, unfolds the purposes and cometh in the name of the Lord.' The threatplans of God, and rejoices in their unbroken ened destruction soon followed, Jerusalem was praises. To each believer does he bend his atten- laid on heaps, the temple was consumed to tion as though there were not another in heaven ashes, the nation was scattered abroad, they have or earth but he, and on all he waits as though ever since been a people robbed and spoiled, and no one needed his special care. He sympathizes are a standing testimony to the destruction with each and with all, and proves himself a awaiting all who abuse their privileges. friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
'He who for men their surety stood,
'Our fellow-suff'rer yet retains
'Lord, let it alone this year also,' Luke xiii. 8. THIS language was originally employed with reference to the Jewish nation and their privileges. They had long been the favoured people of the Lord, the Son of God himself at length came among them, he had sent out instructors among them, but they rejected both him and them. By their unbelief and obstinacy they greatly provoked Jehovah, and he threatened to withdraw their opportunities. The time was fast approaching when they would bring upon themselves swift destruction. But the merciful and forbearing Saviour first admonished them. And to administer his reproof, and give them warning in the least offensive form, he uttered his instructions in the form of a parable. A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and
What a lesson is here to the nations professing Christianity! They are now enjoying the national privileges which the Jews forfeited by their unbelief. But they hold them on the same terms, by the same tenure, even that they shall improve them. 'Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded but fear. For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.' If ever there was a time when this warning seems to be necessary, it is now. National religion has become a term of reproach with many. The nations are letting go many sound principles to which they once adhered. May the Lord have mercy upon Britain, and not suffer her to forsake the national allegiance which she owes to Jesus. Let her take hold of his truth with a firmer grasp, or, great, glorious, and free, though she be, the time may come when she shall not be known among the nations.
What a lesson is here to the professing churches of Christ! The Jewish church and nation were both alike unfaithful to their opportunities, and they perished in one common destruction. Nor does the Jewish church afford the only warning. Let us call to mind the seven churches of Asia. They were plainly threatened that unless they repented their candlestick should be removed. But they repented not, they filled up the cup of unbelief and sin, the divine forbearance would