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If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself....Gal. vi. 3.
The leaven of Phariseeism, pride, self-righteousness, and selfsufficiency, is interwoven with our very nature. In the beginning that arch-deceiver, satan, poisoned the minds of our first parents with that corrupt doctrine, "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." This infection hath tainted the whole human race: naturally every man deceiveth himself: he thinks himself to be that which in reality he is not. Hence is rooted enmity to the salvation of Jesus and the grace of the gospel: here man is nothing; here the creature is annihilated. As Paul saith of an "idol, it is nothing in the world:" so that idol, a man's self, is nothing, knows nothing, can do nothing in the great work of salvation. Fallen nature, with all its boasted goodness, affected piety, devout efforts, contributes nothing; for "all is of grace," rich, free, and sovereign grace. Man, with all his vaunted "knowledge of good and evil;" his free will to choose the good and refuse the evil, his rectitude to perform his duty and secure his salvation, by fulfilling terms and conditions of the gospel; all these are mere non-entities; lighter than vanity when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary.
O believer, when thou thinkest thyself nothing, knowest nothing of thyself, then thou thinkest and knowest right. But when thon art led to think, "now I am something in myself; now I know something by myself; now I can do something of myself, to keep myself in the favor of God, and to be faithful to his grace," verily thou deceivest thyself. This is acting like the church of Galatia under spiritual witchcraft, "beginning in the Spirit, and ending in the flesh." This, in the strict and proper sense, is "falling Frost Grace." So nature's pride exalts one's self, and censures other christians as carnal and unfaithful. This pride of the flesh opposeth our growth in grace, and is contrary to the humbling knowledge of Jesus Christ. To know the grace of God in truth, is to own its sovereign operations upon the soul, to be steady as the sun in its course, uncontroulable as the wind in its power, unfrustrable as the tide in its motion, and as unyielding to the power of nature and the will of man, as the proud waves of the great ecean. To "put on the Lord Jesus," is to "put off the old man with its deceitful lusts," and pride. To "rejoice in Christ Jesus," is to "have no confidence in the flesh." The Lord will " suffer no flesh to glory in his presence." "Let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord.".... 1 Cor. i. 31. Happy for us, with Paul, "most gladly therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me,"....2 Cor. xii. 9.
Be careful for nothing: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, toith thanksgivijig, let your ixquests be made knoion unto God....Phil, iv. 6.
All anxious cares which torture and distress the mind arise from unbelief; they are contrary to our profession, dishonorable to our God, and hurtful to the peace and comfort of our souls. Therefore they are forbid by the gospel of grace, in love to the children of God. But, believer, thou hast not so learned Christ as to pass sway a life of careless indolence and thoughtless inactivity. No; vigilance, industry, and fervency of spirit, is a suitable frame ever to be found in. Not slothful in business, but fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord. Careful and diligent in the use of all means in thy power, both to procure the subsistence and welfare of thy body, as well as to keep up the liveliness and vigour of thy soul. Careful and diligent, yet without care that hath disquietude and distress. As to the things of this life, it is sufficient to answer all thy anxiety, and silence thy every fear and doubt; "your heavenly Father (saith Jesus) knoweth you have need of them." He feeds the birds. Wiir he suffer his babes to starve? Thou shalt have all things needful for life and godliness. If such a sinner as I may speak of himself, under worldly losses and disappointments I have thought, "Well, though I have not what I expected, I can very well go to heaven without it." This consideration, thanks to my dear Saviour, hath often. brought a heaven of contentment to my soul, in a world of disappointment.
As to spiritual blessings, "He that spared not his awn Son, but .freely gave him up a sacrifice for our sins; how shall he not with him also freely give us all things." The Father that hath "blessed: us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus," will hand them out to us by his holy Spirit in number, weight, and measure, just as his wisdom sees best; and it is our wisdom to be content and thankful. Here is encouragement for faith and prayer.
And canst thou look within, wkhout, around, above, and see no. cause for thanksgiving and praise, O christian E Are not what thou' hast in hand, and what thou hast in hope, the free-gifts of the grace of thy God? Call to mind his mercies to excite gratitude; reflect on his promises to quicken in prayer. Under all thy trials, distresses, sorrows, fears, doubts, and difficulties, here is sweet encouragement for thy soul; speak them out freely: make thy requests familiarly unto God. And what shall be the happy consequences? Hear and rejoice, thou shalt have more "abundantly than eitherthou canst think of or ask for."....Eph. iii. 20.
Christ ever lives to intercede Content, my soul, thy cause he'll plea<t,.
Before his Father's face: Nor. doubt thy Father's grace
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in thy weakness....2 Cor. xii. 9.
Spiritual conflicts with the enemy of souls are the lot of all God's' children. Holy Paul was under deep and afflicting distress of soul. Satan the adversary assaulted him very powerfully. He groaned under it; he frequently besought Jesus that this grievous and painful messenger of satan might be made to depart from him, and that his conflict might be at an end. O, what distressing exercises God's children undergo from the enemy! The hearts of such only know the bitterness thereof. But is the captain of their salvation regardless of them? Is he deaf to their prayers when they call on him? No: he ever hears, he always answers in love. But did the Lord grant his dear servant's request? No; then the design of love would not have been answered. Paul was in danger of being' tt exalted above measure." This was to be prevented. He was " to glory in infirmities." This was to be effected. Satan's design was for his evil. Jesus makes it work for good. But that he might not faint in the combat, this comfortable answer is given, "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Let it suffice, my love and favor is ever towards you; my almighty strength is engaged to preserve you. Though you are weakness itself to withstand such an enemy, yet my almighty strength shall uphold you; in this you shall conquer. •' ->;
Here is the strongest assurance for the confidence of faith, and the most solid ground for the rejoicing of hope. The grace and love of Jesus opposed to the malice and hatred of satan; the strength of Jehovah triumphing in, and made illustriously glorious through saints' weakness. O, what an ever-loving, all-sufficient, omnipotent Lord is Jehovah Jesus! The Lord whom thou servest, believer, knows thy every distress and conflict of soul. He will strengthen thee in, support thee under, and bring thee safe through and out of all thy exercises and troubles. Thou shalt lose nothing in the furnace but the dross of nature's pride and corruption, and the vanity of selfglorying, self-sufficiency, and self-righteousness. God by his Spirit will teach thee to profit in humility and self-diffidence, and to glory in and exalt the Lord Jesus more and more. Sweet and encouraging is that promise to God's church and people in general: strong and comforting as God's declaration to Paul, in particular: "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."....Isa. xli. 10.
I can do all things, or can bear But if the Lord be once withdrawn,
All suff*rings if my Lord be there: And we attempt the work alone: Sweet pleasures mingle with the pains, When new temptations spring and rise, While his left hand my head sustains. We find how great our weakness is.
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment....John vii. 24.
; .• By acting contrary to this advice of our prophet, the children of God often distress their poor hearts. Perhaps in no one instance more than this. "My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipt," said the Psalmist. Why? What was the case? Alasl alas! he had been looking at the outward appearance of the wicked. How happy, gay, and joyful they seemed! So that corrupt nature and carnal reason had erected a tribunal in opposition to faith and truth. "Verily," says he, "I have cleansed my heart in vain," &c. But he was soon undeceived and brought to " judge righteous judgment," from the records of truth in the sanctuary of his God.... Psalm lxxiii. Professors of old had a severe check (Mai. iii.) for thus judging. "Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord: ye have said it is vain to serve God," &c. "You call the proud," that is, the self-righteous, but disobedient persons, whom I resist and abhor, "happy." Christian, beware of judging of men. Be cautious of determining of matters by appearances. They are very deceitful. Judge of no man's state by appearances: evil actions we may condemn; good actions we should applaud. But to judge and determine the eternal state of any by appearances, we have no authority. It was a judicious speech of St. Austin, "If I see a wicked man die, shall I say he is gone to hell? I dare not. . Shall I say he is gone to heaven? I cannot."
How awful were the falls of David and Peter! To what dreadful lengths of cruel persecutions against Christ, his truth, and members, did Paul run! Yet how did the rich grace of our God triumph in their repentance and salvation! Therefore, believer, even as to thine own eternal state, judge not from present sense and appearance, though all things seem against thee. Oppose not thy frames and feelings to God's truth, love, grace, promises, and oath in Christ Jesus. And they all point....to whom? Even to sinners, lost and perishing sinners. Whatever else thou hast lost, a sense of sin is with thee. True, sayest thou, and a dreadful sense it is. I also know the same; I have a fellowship with thee in the same sorrowful truth. But still, "this is a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation at all times, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Is there a doubt in thine heart, a fear in thy mind, a sin upon thy conscience, but he is able to relieve and cleanse thee from ?" Be not faithless, but believing," saith thy Lord....John xx. 27.
Not difFrent food or different dress, When weaker christians we despise,
Compose the kingdom of our Lord j We do the gospel mighty wrong,
But peace and joy and righteousness, For God, the gracious and the wise.
Faith and obedience to his word. Receives the feeble with the itreng.
And the children si niggled together- xcithin her: and she said, If it be so, ivhy am I thus? And she went to i?iqteire of the Ij)rd....Gen. xxv. 22.
Very uncommon and extraordinary was the case of Rebekah r inward commotion and strong contention, between the fruit of her body, alarmed her greatly: each threatening death to the other, and herself also. Happy her conduct. In this distress she seeks satisfaction from the Lord. A noble instance of faith and familiarity with the God oflsrael. This also was written for our learning: a very just and striking emblem is this of the christian. As verily as Jacob and Esau were in the womb of Rebekah, so is the christain the subject of two contending parties, the old and new man, flesh and Spirit. The life of each is opposite to the other; each is striving for the mastery over the other. Here is the daily conflict of dissiples.
To good and evil equal bent;
Sinful in nature, yet a saint.
How does the poor groaning, burdened sinner act? Like himself, a believer ori Jesus. With Rebekah, he goes to his Counsellor, he enquires of the Lord Jesus. Is he like Paul in conflict of soul crying out, "O wretched man that I am?" Yea, like Rebekah, is he> sometimes weary of his life, because of the daughters of Heth, the numerous progeny of corrupt lusts of the flesh! Here is an evidence of his spiritual life: this is a full proof of the stragglings of a sanctified soul. Though the poor heart may cry out, 'I a saint, I a member of the Holy Jesus, I a child of God! O, surely it cannot be. If so, why am I thus?" Know, O soul, that it pleased the Father that all fulness of grace should dwell in Jesus. He suffered thy fall into this state that he might raise thee by Jesus; and he is pleased . to leave thy sinful nature vile and corrupt as he found it, until it . shall be "sown a vile body." Thou art like Rebekah groaning and waiting to be delivered. Suffice it, that thou live by faith in Jesus; "wait in hope for the adoption, namely, the redemption of our body." ....Rom. viii. 23. Know thou art called in love, daily to "put off the old man with his deeds....to mortify the flesh with its affections and lusts." But yet always to reckon thyself after Christ, in thy newstate, possessed of perfect righteousness and true holiness. Ever accepted In Him, God's beloved Son; thy beloved head, surety, and Saviour: In Hi M ever acceptable to thy God. Thus the Lord thy God ever delights, in thee, and rejoiceth over thee; sees no spot of sin, butadorned with perfect beauty. Such are the glorious views of faith, in. opposition to all sense and feeling. So, shortly shalt thou be presented to the Father by Jesus, perfectly holy and without blemish,, "not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing/'....Eph* v. 27;