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Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you..., James iv. 8.
How sweetly is the children's duty and the father's promise joined together! The latter is a most powerful encouragement to the former; though we were "sometimes afar of, yet being made nigh by the blood of Jesus," we are exhorted to Draw nigh to God in prayer, in full assurance of faith-, firmly believing that "faithful is he who hath promised," he will draw nigh to us to bless us. To live near God is our heaven below; to experience a distance from him is our misery; we cannot draw nigh to God but in the way he has drawn nigh to us, that is in Christ, in the humanity of Jesus his Son; in all our approaches to God, consider this, Jesus is the object of dur faith, and God In Him; all other objects drawn nigh to, will leave the soul in a painful sense of distance from the true God and real comfort. Happy, only happy canst thou be, while thou art daily living in close communion and near fellowship with thy God and Saviour. While the terrors of the law drive legal spirits td duty to fulfil terms of peace and conditions of acceptance, evangelical promises ever sweetly constrain and encourage to every duty those who "are not under the law, but under grace." To live in neglect of our duty and God's ordinances, is devilish licentiousness; but to be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, is true christian liberty: here is our mercy, we have a svire way of access; by Jesus we draw nigh; in him God and man meet; the holy Spirit is our strength, "praying in the Holy Ghost." As it is the office of Christ to intercede For us, so the Holy Ghost intercedes In us; as an advocate within, he enables us to plead in faith what Jesus is to us, what he hath done for us; so we speak with confidence to our dear Father: he helps in prayer, as a nurse helpeth a little child that is unable to go of itself, or as a weak decrepit person is upheld by the arm.
Here is our encouragement, the word of promise, "God will draw high to you." This, O soul, is thy happiness below, thy heaven on earth, to have access to the God of mercies, and the Father of all Consolations draw nigh to thee; thou sweetly findest it so; not merely to draw nigh to duty, but to God in duty; to find and feel the special presence and blessing of the Lord; without this, loving hearts cannot be satisfied; communion and fellowship with God, finding nearness of spirit, delightful intercourse, having to do with God, and receiving inward peace and love from him; O, this is the glory of the life of faith on Jesus! and this draws us away from, and makes us dead to all things beside. When God and Christ and heaven is within, all without becomes truly mean and despicable in comparison. "It is good for me," saith Asaph, "to draw near to God."....Psalm lxxiii. 28.
/ am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life ivhich now I live in the
Jlesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, ivho loved me, . and gave himself for me....Gal. ii. 20.
The state of a christian is a seeming paradox. No marvel the things of God are foolishness to natural men, and that -we are accounted fools for Christ by them; for the truths of God, as well as the life of his children, appear to be absurd to them. But "the life of Jesus is made manifest in our flesh."....2 Cor. iv. 11. Hence he saith, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.".... Matt. xvi. 24. Deny the Pride of his own righteousness, the corrupt Lusts of his sinful flesh, and own me as his life, and follow me as his Lord in the regeneration; in this crucifixion of nature, this death to every hope but Jesus, this life of faith on him, consists the peace, love, holiness, and joy of our souls; this springs from love, excites to love, and is nourished by love; so we enjoy heaven below. Thus is heaven above insured to us.
Blessed life! happy believer! to feel Christ living in thee, to live on him by faith. Envy you, ye sons of folly and vanity! we do not; join with you in your carnal delights we cannot; joys infinitely superior are ours; pity you, indeed we do; nor with you, ye sons of the bond-woman, can we live on our works and duties, derive life from terms we fulfil, and conditions we perform; as if for so much work we earn so much wages: our God owes us nothing; yet he gave his Son freely, "that we might live through him." The beloved Son of God himself is our life, our all; though wrctchedi guilty, damnable creatures by nature and practice, yet astonishing grace! "he loved us, and gave himself for us." Of this we are bold and confident; this truth bears the divine impress; the Lord hath confirmed it with an oath; here to admit the least doubt is base and unreasonable: the life of faith springs from truth itself, and is as contrary to doubting as it is to sensuality; yet, while in the flesh, it will be opposed by both. But is every believer in Jesus assured with Paul, "Christ loved Me, and gave himself for Me!" No: though this knowledge is essential to the comfort of our souls, yet not to the being of faith in the heart, nor is it the object of faith; yet it is the joyful privilege of every believer, and as such is earnestly to be coveted, and all diligence given to attain it; we are loved with the same love, saved by the same truth, the same faith given us by the same Spirit which Paul had, and to the same end to make us holy and happy; and the comforter, who testifies of Jesus in the word, will sooner or later also bear witness to the heart, and fill the soul with the fruits of faith and the joy of assurance; every faithful, abiding soul in the Lamb shall rejoice to say, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with my spirit, that I am a child of God."....Rom. riii. 16,
Then began he to curse and to szvear, saying, I know not the man....Matt. xxvi. 74.
Self-righteous hearts are ready to think, better to have concealed Peter's abominable wicked conduct. No; the Spirit of wisdom hereby stains the glory of all flesh, and exalts the superabounding riches of Jesus' grace over the aboundings of sin. He shews, in Peter's denying his loving Saviour, what human nature is, and what shocking depths of sin a believer may fall into when left to the'workings of carnal nature and the buffetings of satan. Dreadful to think of! Most earnestly to be prayed against! Yet we see the affectionate heart of Jesus is ever towards his wounded, fallen members. Love is within, and by a look of love, how suddenly, how effectually did Jesus raise and restore Peter! Three denials of Jesus, each attended with higher aggravations, though deserving only a look of wrath, and a frown into hell; yet were followed with a look from Jesus which brake Peter's heart into affection, and melted his very soul into love. Amazing grace! Astonishing kindness! Let no disciple think, I am not in danger of falling, after the like example of unbelief; for every one is.
If any poor lamb of Jesus' flock is fallen, and has been worried and torn by the wolf, let him not say that his loving shepherd has cast him off for ever, and has no more care for him or love to him. What! will the true shepherd who gave his life for the sheep, who bought every one of them with his own blood, will he suffer the enemy to rob him of his property, and destroy any one of his purchased ones? No, verily, this can never be while Jesus is mighty to save. That can never come to pass till Jesus ceaseth to love, and he can as soon cease to exist; for Jesus is God, and, God Is Love....1 John iv. 16. O, how oft are our poor souls hurt and wounded! though not in denying Jesus to a fellow-creature with oaths and curses, yet too oft are we ashamed to confess his dear person, his precious cause, his despised cross. Yea, and when we entertain unloving thoughts of our Saviour, from the working of unbelief in the heart, this naturally tends to deny Jesus in his office and character; leads to depreciate and think too meanly of his salvation, his blood, righteousness, intercession, and faithfulness to his people. Hence we encourage guilty fears, our views of his love get clouded, a sense of it in the heart grows cold, and the influence of it on the life is benumbed. Is not this in effect to say, "I know not the man?" Such are the workings of nature and unbelief. O, how little do we consider what Christ hath done, and is doing for us! We have too mean and contracted views of Jesus at best; and such at times as we arc ashamed of, when we are enabled clearly to view "Christ in us our hope of glory. "....Col. i. 27.
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Remember Lot's ivife....Luke xvii. 32.
It may do a disciple much good, it can do him no harm, to call to mind the judgments of his God. Hence he may learn from others' harm to be more wise and wary. If he sees professors fall away, it teaches him to take heed; it tends to lay him low in humility at the feet of Jesus, and excites gratitude and love in his heart, and makes him cry out in astonishment, Why am I not fallen! How am I kept! "Glory to grace!" It is well, O believer, ever to remember thou standest by faith; "Be not high minded, but fear." O, fear to look back with a wishful eye, or a lusting heart, to the sinful vanities of a carnal world. Remember Lot's wife. What of her? She loitered \ she did not keep up with her husband; she was behind him. So, soul; if thou dost loiter, and not keep close with Jesus thy husband, thou wilt be in danger. "She looked back from behind him." Here was an act of folly, unbelief, and disobedience: folly, in thinking, as she was behind Lot, he could not see her look back. Unbelief, in not stedfastly crediting God's word. Disobedience, in looking back to Sodom, contrary to his word, instead of looking forward, and up to the Lord. O soul, forget not Jesus sees the looks of thy heart if they are to this perishing world. He sees the unbelief of thy heart, if thou forgetest him, and lookest to any thing but him for happiness. He will punish disobedience to his voice, "follow me." "She became a pillar of salt."~..Gen. xix. 26. A lasting monument of God's judgment. Though we never see this pillar'of salt, yet we may see such every day. How many seem to turn their backs upon the world, and escape to Jesus, but their eyes look again to it. Looking begets longing; their feet are again entangled in its snares, their hearts bewitched with its smiles, they are hugged to death in the world's embraces, and become as a pillar of salt: a monument of God's judgment upon their conduct. It is supposed Lot's wife retained her natural shape in this pillar: so in such professors there is all the appearance of the form of religion kept up; but the heart, the spirit, the life and power of it, are entirely extinct in their souls. Their very hearts are given up to the world, and are as cold and as dead to God as Lot's wife, when she became a pillar of salt, was to the things of this life. The eye is a great inlet to temptation. Saints have woefully experienced this! David did. He saw; then he longed after enjoyment. O believer, Jesus is thy object. Here looking may beget love and longing, without danger of hurt; yea, with the greatest certainty of good to thy soul. Ever look to Jesus, remember him; so wilt thou, with Paul, "forget the things that are behind, and press toward the mark of the prize of thy high calling in Him. Thou hast escaped for thy life." It is the command of thy God, in love to thy soul, "Look not behind thee."
How can ye believe which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comethfrom God onh/?...Johnv.44.
"The fear of man bringeth a snare."....Prov. xxix. 25. It is a great enemy to the power of faith in the heart. The esteem of men, to be well spoken of, to have honor and applause from them, are pleasing to the flesh, but hurtful to the Spirit. The wisdom and learning of natural men, are contrary to the simplicity that is in Christ, incompatible with the cross of Christ, and withstands an open confession of him who is an honor to us; for by the faith of Jesus we are honored of the Father to be his children, and to enjoy sweet, fellowship and communion with him in our spirits.
Here is the blessedness of the faith of disciples; "It standeth not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God."....l Cor. ii. 5. Hence we are to "call no man Rabbi, for one is our master, even Jesus." We are to suffer no man to lord it over our faith; not to pin our faith on any man's sleeve; merely to believe what any man says, be he ever so wise and learned. Some are fond of being at the head of a party; others love to humour them, and become tails and tools to them; and their poor hearts are hereby sadly rent and torn, by disputes and divisions which so much abound. But have we not the plain, simple teachings of our blessed prophet to look to? O, how often do disciples of Jesus give honor to men, in expecting that teaching and that comfort from them which cometh from God only! Too oft is it the cry, I will hear what such a one saith, what this and the other teacheth, instead of " I will hear what the Lord God will speak," what he hath taught in his word. I will abide by that only. This honor cometh from God only, to speak peace by Jesus Christ outwardly in his word, and inwardly by his Spirit: therefore we are to search the word diligently, wait for the Spirit patiently, treasure up and ponder upon the sayings of Jesus in our hearts continually. This is to honor him whom the Father honors, to be the prophet of his church. Believers have an "unction from the Holy One that teacheth them all things.".... 1 John ii. 20. Surely they ought not to hear those who know not the truth! "Them that honor me, I will honor," saith the Lord....l Sam. ii. 50. Jehovah commands us. "Hear my beloved Son."....Mark ix. 7. In the face of all opposition to believe the word, the promises, and the oath of the Lord concerning full and free salvation by his Son Jesus only, this is the honor the Lord requires from his children: and this obedience of faith, God will honor with inward peace, and the witness of his Spirit; with a life of love, and the sanctifying renewings of the Holy Ghost from day to day. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils.".... Isa. ii. 22.