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Then I saw and considered it toell: I looked upon it, and received instructioji....Prov, xxiy. 32.
Observation is the life of understanding. Experience is the joy of faith. Learning good from others' harms is true wisdom.. Can we look around us among the circle of our professing acquaint xance, and not see the awful, effects of slothfulness in the ways of God? What supine indolence to the cause of Jesus, and careless indifference as to the health and prosperity of the soul, do we behold I A very affecting description of this the Spirit of wisdom here presents to our view: '" I went by the field of the slothful, (the once seemingly growing and shining professor) and lo, it was all grown ovej; with thorns, (the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, has choked the word....Matt. xiii. 22.) and nettles has covered the face thereof;" (the rank weeds of corrupt lusts, sensual gratifications, carnal pleasures and delights overspread the life and conduct); "the stone wall of the vineyard is broken down;" (the soul lying open and unfenced against the incursion of the beasts of prey, Satan, the men of this world, carnal company; senseless of its danger, and slothful to all means of deliverance, the poor soul composes itself with) "yet a little, sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep." Is not this a striking, though awful likeness? Do we not almost daily behold its original? How melancholy the sight! how alarming the conduct! how dreadful the sentence! "So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth (with speed); .and thy want as an armed man," (being without power thou canst not withstand it), See this, O soul! remember thy calling is to diligence. "Consider it well," (what sad effects spiritual sloth produce!) "Look upon it, (as a frame and temper of soul to be constantly dreaded, and earnestly prayed against); receive instruction:" "For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning." To what end? To shew what has happened to others, "are ensamples to us, an4 for our admonition; upon whom the ends of the world are cpme. Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." ..,.1 Cor. x. J1, 12. The apostle speaks of " things that accompany salvation."....Hcb. vi. 9. Diligence in the ways of God is one of these things; without this we cannot enjoy the full assurance p£ hope, that we are "followers of them who, through faith ansl patience, do now inherit the promises."
I love the volumes of thy word; Thy threat'nings wake my slumb'ring
What light and joy these leaves afford And warn me where my danger lies;''
To souls benighted and distrest! But 'tis thy blessed gospel, Lord, ".
Thy precepts guide, my doubtful way, . That makes my guilty conscience clean, Thy fear forbids my feet to stray, Converts my soul, subdues my sin,
Thy promise leads my heart to rest. And gives a free but large reward..
ISehold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God....Acts vii. 56.
1 Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.' As the trial and exercise of our day is, so shall our strength be. Saints shall have suffering grace for suffering times. Hours of great outward calamities often prove seasons of the greatest aboundings of inward consolation. It is said, "Stephen fell asleep." What! fall asleep under a shower of stones? Yes: the sweetest sleep he ever experienced. It was preceded by a supernatural sight of glory; he awoke in the full enjoyment of glory; he suffered first for Jesus, he is the first who is favored with a view of the glorified Jesus in his kingdom. How faithful is the Lord we serve! how great are his compassions! how reviving to the soul is the spiritual sight of him! Whether patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors, as believers in all ages, the same Lord was the object of their faith; they were comforted by the same Spirit, whose blessed office is to glorify Jesus in the views of believing souls. True, "no man shall see me and live, saith the Lord.".... Exod. xxxiii. 20. Even highly favored Stephen saw not the essential glory of Jehovah but through the medium of the man Jesus. Whether with his bodily sight, or in the full visions of faith and the Holy Ghost, he saw the glory of God in the person of the glorified, exalted Son of man, Jesus, this discovery fired his soul with heavenly joy, and inflamed his heart with holy transport.
Faith's views of Jesus have a transforming influence upon the Soul. While he is beheld, love is communicated. Ascending hearts to Jesus are favored with descending love from Jesus. Love, received in the heart, cheerfully diffuseth its sweet savour around us; it enlarges the bowels of compassion, and opens the mouth in prayer even for its worst enemies. Thus Stephen prays for his very murderers. When for himself he stands; when for them he kneeled down, as though more importunate for them than for himself. What hath Jesus done for sinners! What doth he in them! How precious is he to those who believe! How should our hearts long for clearer views of him by the Spirit! As in his love, so in his person he is Wonderful; he is ever the same, a Man; he appears in his human form before the throne, interceding for sinners. The same suffering, crucified man, who loved our persons and bore our sins, still lives and pleads our cause as our triumphant conqueror in our nature over all our enemies. Thus daily conceive of, look to, and embrace in the arms of faith, thy Lord and thy God, O soul, as man and mediator, as having once, atoned and is now interceding for thee; so mayest thou ever comfortably say, "Into thine hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth."....Psalm xxxi. 5.
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Doth the ploughman ploto all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground ?...Jsa. xxviii. 24.
"the Lord of hosts hath decreed to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth."....Isa. xxiii. 9. Therefore his word sends us to the common transactions in life, that we may gather instruction in humility, and be taught to bow to his sovereignty. Every dispute against the latter is a strong evidence of the want of the former. When the mouth is not stopped, but daringly opened against sovereign purposes and eternal decrees, it is an awful sign that the plough of God's law hath not cut deep into such sinners hearts; for, instead of pleading guilty and being speechless, the pride of nature urges vain pleas against free-grace truth, everlasting love, the finished salvation of Jesus, and the certain glory of all his chosen members.
But verily, as the ploughman plows at a proper season, and sows his seed at the appointed time, and as harvest shall not fail, so the church of Christ is "God's husbandry.".... 1 Cor. iii. 9. By the ministry of the word the Lord plows up the uncultivated ground of unfruitful hearts, he opens and breaks the clods of pride and lust, he casts in the seed of eternal life in the knowledge of Jesus, then the graces of faith, hope, love, and holiness, take root downward and spring forth upward.
But alas! the seed is exposed to many dangers; weeds may grow up and choke it; if refreshing showers, the warm sun, or the purifying air is withheld, it will rot, and bring forth no fruit unto perfection. The poor heart is not without its fears, yea is at its wit's end at times, lest so it should be. And what can he do? He cannot command the clouds, call forth the sun, or cause the wind to blow. Boasting in self is at an end; trusting to inherent grace is cut off; hence the soul is led in humility to see that all things are of God; that if ever he reaps the harvest of eternal life, it is wholly and solely owing to God's free gift by Jesus; that all present fruitfumess is by the Spirit's energy and influence, in consequence of the Father's love and faithfulness, and the Son's perfect work and salvation; therefore look hot so much within, nor around thee, as above to Jesus. Doubting disciple, from this inexhaustible fountain hope and encouragement flow. Though all within seems gloomy and distressing, all without opposing and discouraging, yet our God is over all and above all. Ever remember there is as great a necessity for the heart to be deeply rooted in humility downward, as for the pleasing fruits of peace and joy to spring upward; Our heavenly husband knows which is best for us. As the ploughman minds his work, and does his duty; so do thou. Be diligent in thy work; be humble in thy heart, knowing "God giveth the increase."....! Cor. iii. 7.
Tltat every mouth may be stopped, and all the tcorld may become guilty before God....Rom. iii. 19.
In our natural state we are ever most backward to take guilt to ♦urselves, most skilful at self-excuses, most averse to self-examinEtion, because we dread self-condemnation; hence we are ever prone to pass judgment at the bar of pride and carnal reason upon the truths of God, because we think they are against us. O what is there in such stout-hearted rebels, who are far from righteousness, to invite down the blessed Spirit to enlighten our minds! It is by his special merey we see the spirituality and extent of God's holy law: though in it we see nothing but justice with a drawn sword, and mercy with a veiled face, yet it cjjts off all glorying in the flesh, stops the mouth of pride and arrogance, and leaves the poor sinner under a sense of guilt, and subjects him to the judgment of God. To such, the sound of mercy how welcome! the proclamation of grace how joyful! the name of Jesus how precious! the way of salvation by him how acceptable! How willingly do such desire to be eternally indebted to free grace! How dead do such become to former legal hopes! Expectation from their fulfilling terms and conditions is cut off; grace freely given, mercy richly bestowed through Jesus, becomes the subject of all their hope, the matter of all their glorying. Now it is not, What have I done? How have I behaved? but, "What hath Jesus done! What a glorious salvation hath he wrought! 'I am' a poor sinner, stript of all, now bow to the sovereignty of God, adore his electing love, admire God's salvation, sit humbly at the feet .of Jesus, dwell on the wonders of his love and sufferings on Calvary's mount, thankfully receive the testimony of Jesus from the Spirit, and give the ever-gracious Three all the glory of what I am in time, and of what I hope to be in eternity.' When the soul is become guilty in its own sight, the mouth is]thus stopped: every self-righteous plea is silenced. When the sinner thus sees himself, he is quite out of conceit with himself.
• Thus the law is good if a man use it /awfully; but if the Lamb's .wife seek to the law, as a woman to her husband, to get comfort from it, and life by obedience to it, verily this is not continuing a chaste virgin to Jesus. We shall then cease to bring forth fruit unto God; but we shall be, as God complains of Israel of old, "an empty vine, who bringeth forth fruit unto himself."....Hosea x. 1. We shall grow delighted with ourselves, and imagine we have that within us to talk of and glory in, instead of the work of Jesus, for us. But thus saith the Lord, "Thou shalt remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee, for all that thou hast done."....Ezek. xvi. 63.
Jesus said, Tliis swkness is not unto death, but for the glorp. qfGod, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.... John xi. 4.
It frequently happens, that intervening occurrences seem ter contradict the truths of God. Therefore if we judge from sight and appearance, wc shall be often deceived. God's word alone is the rule of faith; what he has declared shall certainly come to pass, however repugnant it may seem to carnal reason. Thus our Saviour declares of Lazarus, "This sickness is not unto death:" yet he afterwards told his disciples plainly, "Lazarus is dead:" and Jesus found him in the grave, where he had lain four days. But Jesus, who had power over death and the grave, knew his own intention of raising him, both for the glory of the Father, as well as glorifying himself. This was the great end of his coming into the world; therefore in the life, and by the death of Jesus, glory redounds "to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good-will to men."
Did Jesus love Lazarus? Did his compassionate eye drop a tear of affection over his friend's grave? O what an innumerable company of poor sinners did his loving eyes behold, who, like Lazarus, were not only to all appearances past hope, but actually "dead in trespasses and sins!" but he says of them also, "This sickness is not unto death." Eternal death shall not have the dominion over them; but he would get glory to God, and glorify himself in quickening and raising all God's chosen ones, all his dearly beloved members.
On the death of Lazarus "Jesus wept: he groaned within himself;** and he cried to his Father. How must the heart of Lazarus be inflamed with love to his dear Lord for giving him a second life! O believer 1 the raising thy soul from a death of sin to a life of righteousness, cost thy Saviour not only a sigh, a tear, a groan, a prayer; but agonies, sweats of blood, tortures beyond thought, sufferings beyond expression. His immaculate heart's blood he freely poured forth for our sins, to procure the life, and to obtain the salvation of our souls. Canst . thou think of this love without reflecting on thy misery? O hard • heart! O cruel unbelief! How little affected with such love as none but God could shew! Is this thy pain and sickness 1 Come, then, that the Son of God may be yet more glorified in thee, bring thy hard heart to the feet of Jesus, and confess thy unbelief to him with this humble cry, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief."....Mark ix. 24.
Come, happy souls, approach your God So strange, so boundless was the love With new melodious songs: That pity'd dying men,
Come, tender to almighty grace The Father sent his equal Son
The tribute of your tongues. To give them life again.