I am glad you can say, concerning the work of the ministry, “My God would have me go, and go I must.” And though you think yourself to be the weakest and vilest of all the Lord’s people, and the least and most unworthy of all His ministers, and that you are not fit to preach the gospel, yet, since the Lord spoke by His blessed word to your heart, and persuaded you that it was His mind you should engage in this great work, fear not, for out of weakness you shall be made strong. Your iniquity your great High Priest has caused to pass from you, and He has clothed you with change of clothing—with the glorious robe of His righteousness—having taken off your own filthy garments; and a fair mitre will be set upon your head, or put a fresh beauty and glory upon you in your work, as you are therein made a priest unto God by the Lamb’s blood. And, remember, that the Lord is a Sovereign, and that He may take the least and last, the most unfit and unworthy of all, to send about this great work, the more to exalt the infinite freedom of His boundless grace, to display its exceeding riches, to His endless praise, by men and angels, and to exclude all creature-boasting—that no flesh should glory in His presence. Say, therefore, with your once-rejoicing Lord, “I thank You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.” And when God sends the most weak and unfit instruments to do great work, He does not leave them to their own weakness and unfitness, but abundantly supplies all their needs, according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ—Himself the great, all-wise, and almighty agent, takes them into His own hand, and effectually works by them to answer His great designs. The servants of Christ in the ministry do not “go to war at their own expense;” they do not, should not, go to that great work in ‘their own little strength’, but abide in Christ by faith for the continual supplies of His Holy Spirit, to fit them for, and carry them through, all their appointed service, to the glory of God, the good of souls, and their own present and eternal bliss. Fear not, therefore, for the Lord who sent you will certainly be with you, and you shall save Israel and smite her enemies, clad with Jehovah’s might. All supplies of sin-pardoning, sin-subduing, all-assisting, and all-persevering grace are from Him, and unto His glory. That you may be thus endued with power from on high, is my hearty desire.
Dear Sir, Oh! the infinite love, the boundless grace of God—that though we are bent to backsliding from Him, and are every day guilty of it more or less—He will still call us His people, and, according to His promise, will heal our backslidings and love us freely—us who by nature were a sea of vileness, a hell of iniquity, a mass of black and horrid antithesis to His infinite purity—us who by practice were transgressors from the womb—and, which is most amazing, us who since the display of His infinite, all-attracting grace, in the forgiveness of our sins, and in the admission of us into all the royalties and privileges of the sons of God, have, nevertheless, slighted His love, despised His commandments, forsaken the Lord, and gone after other lovers!
And yet, oh yet, God loves us! Us who are guilty of such ingratitude as is not to be found even among the damned—and this, notwithstanding He knew beforehand how treacherously we would deal with Him; how rebellious, how abominable we would be. Oh, this was free love indeed! We have tried it by innumerable provocations, by most aggravated transgressions, all of our sins, being of a deep dye, an extensive guilt, a bloody color; and yet, all glory to infinite, unchanging love—our Jehovah consumes not the sons of Jacob, but loves them freely still!
Oh, free, invincible, everlasting love! Overcome us! Melt us! Draw us! Then returning, under Your healing influence, we will say repeatedly, after all our heart, lip, and life-backslidings, “Behold, we come unto You, for You are the Lord our God.” Oh, what an unspeakable privilege is it, that such poor backsliding children as we are, have such a merciful Father, that will not cause His anger to fall upon us, though we have done as many evil things as we could!
Surely it is our wisdom to come to the Savior daily, as being in ourselves poor sinners, and to abide in Him continually by faith, to receive of His fullness and grace—and all supplies of grace for multiplied pardon, abundant peace, full joy, renewed strength, and increasing holiness.
I humbly think that the bondage of the children of Israel in Egypt, under Pharaoh and his task-masters, was typical of the cruel bondage of the people of God in a state of nature, under the tyranny of sin and Satan and a broken law of works.
Their deliverance from Egypt and passage through the Red Sea were typical of our deliverance from the power of darkness, and translation into the kingdom of God’s dear Son at our first conversion. Their journeys through the desolate wilderness were typical of our travels through this world of trouble. Their Land of Promise was typical of our promised rest.
Their passage over Jordan into Canaan was typical of our passage through death into everlasting life, or of our passing from this world of sin and sorrow into the world of joy and glory as our everlasting rest. And that Canaan was typical of heaven, is evident, in that God, when He made promise of Canaan to Abraham, did thereby make promise of heaven to him—of heaven’s glory—as the substance of that shadow in Canaan’s bliss, whence his faith beheld the same afar off through the glass of the promise, as (Heb. 11:9, 10), “By faith he sojourned in the Land of Promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” And thus those who are of faith, that have the same faith with Abraham, are said to “seek a country, and to desire a better country, that is, an heavenly—wherefore God also is not ashamed to be called their God—for He has prepared for them a city” (verse 14, 16), no less than the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the glory of the heavenly state.
Thus, this was the sum and substance of the promise, spiritual and heavenly glory, that was shadowed forth by literal Canaan with its flowing bliss, and this is what the faith of all the Old Testament saints beheld in Canaan’s promise, as the ultimate of that bliss comprised in it. And this is what all the New Testament saints likewise, all that are of the faith of Abraham, and so heirs with him of the same promise, this is what they look for and expect, even the heavenly glory of which Canaan, the glory of all lands, was a sweet resemblance.
And as the Israelites were to pass over Jordan, in order to possess the bliss of Canaan, so the people of God must pass over the river death before they enjoy, and in order to possess, the glory prepared for them in heaven. Death, like Jordan’s river, lies between us and promised bliss, between the wilderness and Canaan. But over Jordan the Israelites went dry-shod, under the conduct of their Joshua, to possess their portion in the Land of Promise; and over death we shall go unhurt, untouched by the waters, the sorrows thereof, as a curse, while the waters divide here and there, by Omnipotent power, to make us a safe passage through the flood on foot, under the conduct of our Jesus—the Captain of our salvation—to the full possession of our inheritance in light and life, in the immediate vision and fruition of His glory unto fullness of joy and endless eternity. And the believers, the spiritual Israelites, must pass over Jordan into Canaan before they can feast in Canaan. A taste here in grace, to whet our appetites and set our souls a longing, is our unspeakable privilege, but our delicious, soul-satisfying feast, is reserved for future glory until we are made partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. And here what shall I say? “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, those great and glorious things which God (in His everlasting love) has prepared for them that love Him, for them that wait for Him.” The best and richest wine of God’s everlasting word is kept until last, reserved for a glorious eternity. And O the rich dainties, the royal wine in abundance, on which immortal saints shall feast at the marriage-supper of the Lamb! “We shall eat and drink at His table in His kingdom” (Luke 22:30), “Yes, eat as His friends” (Song 5:1), and drink as His beloved abundantly of love, of love before time, in time, and after time, unto endless eternity; for the great opening of God’s heart—of the heart of God the Father, in all the displays of His everlasting love—of the heart of God the Son, in all the displays of His everlasting love—of the heart of God the Holy Spirit, in all the displays of His everlasting love, is reserved for blessed eternity.
The love of God in itself, and in all its wondrous fruits, will then be set before the quick appetites of glorified saints, and make them a joyful, eternal feast. The new and old fruits of everlasting love, and love in all its fruits, to our eternal salvation and glory, ordained, procured, and bestowed, will delight us exceedingly, and feed us substantially. And oh, what tongue can express, or heart conceive, a thousandth part of that bliss, joy, and glory we shall possess in the immediate vision and fruition of Christ, and of God in Him—of God in all His Persons, as Love, without darkness, without distance, without a veil between, without the medium of ordinances? Oh, what will it be to see, to enjoy God as love, in Himself, without intermission, to an endless duration, and without fear also of any even the least separation?
Oh, what is Christ? What is God? What is God in Christ, the ultimate of the saints’ enjoyment? He was of old prepared for us worthless creatures, for us miserable sinners! For us, sinful men—while sinning angels perish! For us, the chosen, the beloved of the Lord, while thousands of our sinful race sink down with sinning angels into endless misery! Were we better than they? No! in no way. Oh free, rich, distinguishing love! Oh, great, everlasting love! “Lord, what is man, that you are thus mindful of him? or the Son of man, that you should set your heart upon Him?” This note of joyful wonder will be echoed forth by glorified saints from their fervent love of God and zeal for His honor, in their lofty songs of praise, while they ascribe salvation and glory and blessing unto Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever, to which all their innumerable multitude and myriads of glorious angels, with joy unknown, shall join a loud amen! But oh, this feasting upon the everlasting love of God and all its glorious fruits, upon Christ Himself, and God in Him, as the old provision made for the heirs of God, to delight their hearts and sustain them to eternal life, when they possess their vast inheritance reserved for them in heaven—this, this is a bliss too great, a joy too rich, a glory too high, to be conceived or expressed by saints on this earth! This mortal must put on immortality, we must pass over Jordan into Canaan, before we can tell what delights we shall enjoy in this rich and everlasting feast!
The children of Israel knew not the pleasures of eating Canaan’s delights until they had got into the Land of Promise. They had manna in the wilderness, but when once they had eaten of Canaan’s old corn, the manna ceased, they had it no more; they needed it no longer when brought to feed on a more substantial food. Their manna was typical of Christ, the Bread of Life; but the manna was a lighter food, suited to their wilderness-state, and to set forth those lesser discoveries and enjoyments of Christ, and of God in Him, with which the heavenly pilgrims are blessed during their travels through a world of griefs. Their manna, also, was bread given them from heaven, to show the miraculous care of God’s providence for the support of those who were the objects of His love, when they were in a desolate wilderness, and to show also that Christ, and every discovery of Him made to the faith of God’s people, while in this world, for the support of their spiritual life, is from heaven, and a marvelous display of God their Father’s care, to supply the needs of His beloved children while traveling through this desert land.
And the Israelites’ manna, likewise, which fell round about their camp, which descended with, and was wrapped up in, the dew, which, when that was gone up, was to be gathered by them daily, was to teach them diligence in the use of means, and constant dependence in a way of obedience, upon the God of their lives, and to teach us also to give all diligence, in the use of all the means of grace, of all gospel ordinances and appointments, to find, take up, and enjoy Christ for the spiritual life of our souls, and thus, in well-doing, to commit ourselves daily to the love and care of God our heavenly Father for all supplies of grace, until we are brought to glory.
But when once we, as the Israelites, have passed over Jordan, and set our feet, as they, upon Canaan’s blissful shore, the manna, as it ceased to them, so to us it will cease; we shall have manna no more. We shall be done with all imperfect discoveries and enjoyments of Christ, and of God in Him, when that which is perfect is come. We shall not need bread to be given us from heaven when once we are advanced unto heaven to possess that land where bread is eaten in plenty, without scarceness, nor those marvelous displays of divine love and care which were needful to supply our needs in a weary wilderness, when once we possess the land of rest, where all fullness dwells. Nor yet shall we need the use of the many means of Grace, when grace has brought us to glory; we shall not need gospel ordinances to bring us to Christ, and to God in Him by faith, when once we are blessed with the immediate vision and full fruition of God and of the Lamb, unto joy ineffable and life eternal.
No! we shall look back indeed, and remember all the way which the Lord led us through the wilderness, and adore everlasting love in every of its bright displays, in all its wise conduct by grace in bringing us to glory. The remembrance of the manna will not cease, but be preserved fresh (as the pot of manna for a memorial was, in the ark), in the memories of glorified saints to Jehovah’s endless honor; but the manna itself shall cease, we shall have manna no more, we shall be above needing it, above using it, when once we partake of God’s everlasting love and all its glorious fruits, as love in its eternal round runs through and shall be enjoyed in them all, unto rising praises, and endless ages. The grace of Christ be with your spirit.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13
I. As to the matter of this petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” we may consider, what the word temptation means; and what kind of temptation may be here intended.
1. The word temptation, taken in a large sense, signifies any kind of proof or trial that is made of any person or thing.
2. As to what kind of temptation is here intended, it may respect temptations from God, from Satan, from men, and from our own hearts, and may extend both to affliction and sin, both of which we deprecate when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”
II. As to the Person to which this petition is addressed, which is God our heavenly Father, “Our Father who is in heaven—lead us not,” we are hereby taught to look up in faith unto that God, who is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, for preservation from all temptation, and unto Him as our Father—as our Father who is in heaven—who loves and pities us in all as a father does his children, and who is high above all, and overrules all as He pleases.
III. As to what is implied herein—that God may righteously lead us into temptation —by “Lead us not,” it is implied that He may lead us, and that righteously, into temptation. We have sinned against Him in our first father Adam, and thence have derived a sinful nature from him, which is enmity against God. And our personal transgressions in heart, lip and life, in thought, word and deed, even since we knew the Lord, or rather were known of Him, are innumerable; by which we are such a provocation of His anger that He may justly give us up in a way of rebuke unto a variety of temptations both as to afflictions and sins—and sin to a child of God is indeed the greatest affliction. I say, “give us up,” but I intend it in a limited sense, that is, in part and for a time, not totally nor finally; not but that our sins deserve both—but having forgiven all our iniquities, and put us among the children of His love through faith in His dear Son, He does and will deal with us according to grace—”the exceeding riches of His grace”—and never, never leave us nor forsake us in any state or case, but overrule all things, even our very temptations, for the furtherance of our salvation. Those righteous rebukes as to afflictions on account of the sin of our nature which flow more eminently from God’s sovereign will, though they carry the face of divine displeasure in them, do yet originally spring from His paternal love, and are designed and managed by Him for the purging out of corruptions and for the exercise of our graces, and in both for the furtherance of our salvation. And even those sorer rebukes, when He leads us into temptations to sin on account of our actual transgressions and repeated provocations, when He “gives us up to our own heart’s lust,” lets us alone when we cleave to idols, and allows our “own wickedness to correct us, and our backslidings to reprove us,”—though they carry a more severe displeasure in the face of them, yet flowing but from Fatherly anger, and not from vindictive wrath, as they spring from, so they end in, the great designs of infinite love—to purge out our corruption and further our salvation; while the Lord righteously leaves us to fall by temptation into sin, and thereby overrules the greatest evil for our good, in giving us to see in the bitter fruit what an evil and a bitter thing it is, “that we have forsaken the Lord our God, and that His fear has not been (the prevailing principle) in us;” by which through His forgiving and restoring grace, He sets our hearts more against sin than ever, and draws out our souls afresh to cleave to Him in a way of duty, and thus to have our fruit unto holiness, the end whereof will be everlasting life.
But perhaps you will say, “I know that the Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works, but how can a righteous, holy God, be said to lead us into temptation?” I answer—Of God’s leading His people into temptation, with regard to affliction, I suppose you have no doubt, or that God righteously may, and often does, lay that upon us and require that of us which is very afflicting to nature, in order to the trial and exercise of our graces, for His own glory and our joy; as, when He required Abraham to offer up his son—his only son—for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which He would show him—even his Isaac, whom he loved, and in whom all the promises were to be fulfilled, by the Messiah’s springing from his loins—concerning which it is said, “that God did tempt Abraham” (Gen. 22:1).
And as in tribulations and persecutions for the gospel’s sake, the followers of Christ are required “to deny themselves,” to “take up their cross,” to hate even their own lives, to love them not unto death, to “be faithful unto death,” and to “resist, even unto blood (if called to it), striving against sin,” etc.; in which kind of temptations, with all others that are of a like nature, though not to that degree, which Abraham’s children are at any time called to endure, they are bid to rejoice, yes, to count it all joy when they fall into diverse of them (James 1:2).
Of God’s leading His people into temptation in these respects, I think, my dear sister, you have no doubt; but how this holy, righteous God, can be said to lead us into temptation to sin, in a way consistent with His holiness and righteousness?—this, I suppose, is your scruple. And as to this, I have already hinted that God righteously may, even thus, lead us into temptation as a sharp rebuke for our sins, in a way of Fatherly anger, which is entirely consistent with His paternal kindness, in turning us from all iniquity, and working us up more fully into the image of His purity. And I further add, that whenever God leads us into temptation to sin, as a just rebuke for our former sin, His righteousness and holiness therein is further manifest, in that He never does in the least thereby entice us, stir us up, or excite us to sin. No! His infinite purity, His flaming holiness, does absolutely, necessarily, and constantly forbid everything of this nature, for He is of purer eyes than to behold evil; He cannot (with the least approbation) look on iniquity (Hab. 1:13). It is impossible that an infinitely holy, righteous God, who is immutably and eternally glorious in holiness, should in any way, or at any time, excite any person unto any evil. No! “Let no man say (in this respect), when he is tempted, I am tempted of God—for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man” (James 1:13), that is, by impulsive temptation to evil.
Such active temptations to sin are to be ascribed to their proper authors—to Satan, the grand adversary, whose constant work it is to stir men up to sin against God, on which account he is called the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5); to wicked men who, as his instruments, excite one another to sin—whence it is said, “My son, if sinners entice you, consent not” (Prov. 1:10); and to our own wicked hearts, as (James 1:14)—”But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.
But, nevertheless, the holy, righteous God, as a holy, righteous chastisement for sin, may and does at times lead us into temptation to sin; and when he does do so, far is God therein from being the author of sin or any active cause thereof, in that He does not in the least thereby actively tempt us to evil, but only passively leaves us to those temptations which He justly may and does allow to fall in our way; and as God righteously may lead us into temptation, so with propriety He may be said thus to do:
1. When He allows SATAN to tempt us, as He permitted Satan to tempt Peter (Luke 22:31, 32), “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not; and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.” Satan, from his malice against the Lord and against this His zealous servant, desired to have Him, or he desired leave to tempt him (as the devils desired permission to enter the swine), that he might sift out all his graces and leave nothing in him but his corruptions. But Christ, from his love to Peter, and as a rebuke for his self-confidence, to show him the weakness of inherent grace and the strength of corruption if led into temptation, was pleased to give him up, as it were, in part and for a time unto Satan’s will to tempt him, or allowed Satan to try him by his hellish policy and power, the sad effect of which was the denial of his dear Lord and Master. “But I have prayed for you that your faith fail not;” as if our Lord should say, “Though I have allowed the enemy to assault you, and he will greatly prevail against you, yet I have limited the temptation, and through my intercession for you he shall not be able to sift the principles of faith out of you. And though in the shaking time your acts of faith and zeal, in and for Me, will fail you, yet, through my forgiving and renewing grace, you shall be again recovered and strengthened, and, when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.” 2. Again, God may be said to lead us into temptation: When He allows MEN to tempt us, as he allowed the old prophets to tempt the man of God that cried against the altar at Bethel (1 Kings 13:18).
3. And God may be said to lead us into temptation: When He allows the CORRUPTIONS OF OUR OWN HEARTS to tempt us, as (Psalm 81:11, 12), “But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of Me. So I gave them up unto their own heart’s lust, and they walked in their own counsels.” 4. Once more, God may be said to lead us into temptation: WHEN HE WITHHOLDS THE INFLUENCE OF HIS GRACE FROM US, which alone can keep us from yielding to temptation, as He left Hezekiah to try him that he might know all that was in his heart (2 Chron. 32:31). And as God righteously may allow Satan, men, and sin to tempt us, and withhold the influence of His grace from us when we grieve and vex his Holy Spirit, so, when we are thus led into temptation, the sad consequence thereof, through the strength of our soul-enemies, and our weakness, will be a wretched compliance with temptation to sin, to God’s dishonor and our soul’s wounding. And therefore, a hint or two:
IV. As to our duty and privilege daily to pray. If God justly may lead us into temptation with respect to affliction, which, through the weakness of our nature, will expose us to great danger of sinning against Him, and if He righteously may lead us into temptation, even unto sin itself, in both which, if He leaves us, we shall certainly fall into evil, to His dishonor and our wounding, oh, how much does it concern us daily to pray, “lead us not into temptation;” how great is our duty thus to supplicate the divine throne, and how great is our privilege that we may thus address our Father who is in heaven, who is infinite in wisdom, and has many ways to prevent our being led into temptation; who is infinite in grace, and is always ready to hear the prayers of His dear children; and who is almighty in power, and well able to protect us from all dangers, and to defend us from all our spiritual enemies. It is an honor due to our heavenly Father, that we thus pray to Him daily, “lead us not into temptation,” and a privilege unspeakable hereby is cast upon us His children, in the enjoined duty.
I shall close with a few hints from the latter part of this petition, by showing—What evil we deprecate; and what salvation we implore, when we pray, “but deliver us from evil.”
1. We hereby pray against the evil of sin, that if God at any time, or in any measure, should lead us into temptation, we may be delivered from the hurt of it, that we may be seasonably supported in, and graciously delivered out of, temptation. We likewise hereby pray that we may be delivered from evil men and from the evil one, Satan, who is the principle author of all evil.
2. The salvation we implore when we pray, “but deliver us from evil,” consists in this, the forgiveness of all our sins so far as by temptation we have fallen, or may be left to fall into sin; the subduing of all our iniquities, and the utter destruction of all sin, with all the effects of it, both as to soul and body, unto the complete and everlasting salvation of our whole persons through God’s free grace by Jesus Christ, to the eternal praise of His glory, and to our eternal joy.
And thus the conclusion of this excellent directory for prayer, which glances upon all its foregoing parts, fitly comes in upon the close of the sixth petition—”for yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.” By which we give unto God as our Father in Christ the glory due unto His name, and acknowledge Him to be the true and living God, and an everlasting King; that He has a right to rule over all things for his own glory; that He has prepared His own throne in the heavens, and that His kingdom rules over all; that He works all things in providence, according to the good pleasure of His eternal will; that His kingdom of right should come, and that by His power and for His glory it shall come, to the complete salvation of His people, and the utter destruction of all His and their enemies; and that we approve of and choose Him for our King, that we give up ourselves to Him to be His subjects, that we rejoice in His government, and long for the spreading of the glories of His kingdom over all, in testimony whereof, and in confidence of our prayers being heard, we say, Amen.
How good is the Lord to us! He tries us for a while, and then He comforts us. Light and darkness—joy and sorrow—bitter and sweet—are wisely mixed and graciously overruled for the glory of God in our salvation. Oh, the infinite wisdom of our Leader, the glory of His conduct, the happiness of those under His care, and the blissful end to which He brings them! Happy is their way, and happy is their end. Happy are they in the midst of griefs—because the God of joy, God their joy, their exceeding joy, is with them there. Happy are they when delivered from grieving things—because God their deliverer is their deliverance. Jesus our Redeemer, the Captain of our salvation, marches on before His redeemed, treads down the briars and thorns of the wilderness, and gives us a comfortable passage through them to the land of rest. What need we fear, since the Lord is with us—with us when we pass through the waters and walk through the fire—that the one does not consume us, nor the other overflow us?
Our happiness lies in having a saving interest in the all-sufficient God, in the enjoyment of Him as such, and in our entire dedication to His glory, in every changing providence. To have God in everything—to see God in everything—and to love, bless, and adore God in everything—will make everything sweet to us. And without this, nothing will be substantial, nothing joyous, nothing profitable, nothing savory to a new-born soul, as such.
Oh, what a heap of empty vanities and cruel vexations are all things which this world affords without God enjoyed, without God revered in everything! It may well be said, “to glorify God, and to enjoy Him, is the chief end of man,” and ineffably happy is that man who eagerly pursues this great end as his chief good. That man is prepared for the enjoyment, for the employment of heaven. And the more he answers that character, the greater is his preparation for the heavenly state; yes, the more of heaven comes down into his soul while his abode is on this earth.
I wish you daily fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit the Comforter.
Dear Friend,I am glad the Lord enables you to believe that all your afflictions are given in God’s mercy, faithfulness and love—herein is the strength of a believer’s spirit for patient suffering. It is my joy likewise, that you have the blessed experience that when nature is ready to cry out and faint under affliction’s pressing weight, grace is enabled to sing and triumph. And believe this, that by all the dispensations of Providence, the Lord, your own God, as the God of love to you in Christ, is bringing you up to glory in that very way which infinite wisdom and grace devised and foreordained, that is and shall be most for God’s highest praise and your highest bliss.
As you long to know and love Jesus more, your longing soul shall be satisfied with an increasing knowledge of Him and love unto Him here, until that which is perfect, with respect to both, shall come hereafter. And as Christ now is altogether lovely in your view, though you get but now and then a glimpse of His glory by faith in this distant state, oh, what rapturous joy will fill your heart when blessed with sight, when in His immediate presence you shall see Him as He is!
Believers who are perfectly justified before God have but an imperfect knowledge and conscience-persuasion of that their complete justification; and their personal standing in this grace is not fully known to others, much less are the resplendent glories of Christ’s righteousness—that Godlike dress with which believers are richly arrayed—comprehended by themselves, or by others with whom they converse, is our present state of shortness and darkness.
The state of grace, as to sanctification, consists in a begun fitness, by inherent holiness produced in our hearts and lives by the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Spirit of grace, for the enjoyment of Christ and of God in Him; in some glances of His glory cast upon us through the gospel-glass, in a growing conformity to His image, and in an answerable employment in His praise. Now, as glory is grace made perfect, we may hence form some true notions what glory is, in that it differs not from grace in kind but in degree. But as our present conceptions about it are very imperfect, we must needs be very far from thinking or speaking of it perfectly.
The souls of the saints at the death of their bodies, by the Almighty energy of the Holy Spirit, are at once made perfect in holiness. All sin, in its being and working, which remained in them before, is then destroyed utterly, removed out of them totally and forever, and their begun holiness completed, never more to be defaced. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts at first, which was perfect as to kind and as to parts, as it extended as a principle of grace unto all the powers of their souls, each of which was in part sanctified, shall then be completed in degree, and all the powers of their souls sanctified perfectly as entire faculties. The ‘infant principle of grace begun’ shall then arrive to its full perfection, to the measure of the stature of the perfect new man. And this perfect holiness is, and will be, their perfect, inherent fitness for the state of glory, in the immediate vision of Christ and of God in Him to a blissful eternity.
They see God’s infinite perfections and glories, and in all their various displays in nature, grace, and providence, and all in subservience to God’s highest praise, and their highest bliss. They live in God, and dive continually into that boundless, bottomless, endless sea of immense felicity, to the ages of eternity! But the glory of separate spirits, at home with Christ, is, in this regard, much too great to be conceived or expressed by a mortal’s thought or word. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard!” Dr. Goodwin well says, “When we are taken to heaven, we shall see God at once, with respect to the simplicity of His Being, as all that is in God, is God; but with respect to the immensity of His Being, it will be like sailing over an eternal sea, where every moment’s sail we have a new horizon.” The fresh displays of Jehovah’s infinite glories will fill our finite capacities with rising joys, and present new wonders to our raptured eyes, through the circling ages of a blessed eternity; for when we see Christ, and God in Him, it will not be a bare speculation, an unaffecting sight, but a soul-attracting display, that sweetly, strongly, perpetually, will draw us into Him, that broad, deep, and endless ocean of glory, for a soul-filling enjoyment. “And they will see His face, and his name will be written on their foreheads.” Rev. 22:4.
And this beatific, facial vision of God and the Lamb, will be transforming. “When we see Christ, Christ as He is, we shall be like Him.” And this transformation into His image by the vision of His face, as I humbly think, respects all those internal, innumerable, various and endless acts of our perfected graces, which shall be excited hereby to a vast eternity.
And consequent hereupon, we shall be externally employed in Jehovah’s praise—in ascriptions of glory and blessing, salvation and honor, wisdom and power, unto Him that sits upon the throne, and to the worthy Lamb forever and ever! And a specimen of this worship of heaven we have thus given, “And every creature which is in heaven heard I saying, Blessing and honor, and glory, and power be unto Him who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever! “
All the innumerable multitude shall continually and eternally join in the worship of God and the Lamb, with the triumphant shout of, Hallelujah! to which all the glorious angels round the throne join a loud, Amen! All the glorified members of Christ’s mystical body, from Him the Head, shall be filled brimful of joy and glory, ineffably and eternally, and all the streams of bliss, from Him the Fountain, shall flow down upon all, and by all, into and through each other, and waft them all, in love’s endearment and joint-praises, into God, that vast ocean from whence they came, that ocean of joy and glory—to a happy eternity. For all the displays of the glory of God, which shall then be cast upon us through Christ, will be made in the bright form of love, which will attract our spirits as so many tongues of fire in continual ascension to join with His infinite and eternal flame!
Our communion with God, as the God of love, will be full and immediate, uninterrupted and eternal. Yes, we shall then love God for Himself, first and principally in all His essential perfections and infinite glories, and in all their bright displays, chiefly in that God is glorified thereby. We shall love His glory in our salvation, above our own happiness therein, and rejoice in our felicity, as it redounds to Jehovah’s glory—His manifestative glory. We shall interest ourselves in God’s glory, and rejoice forever in His essential, immense, and eternal bliss.
And passing out of our little selves into the great God, we shall live in Him, and bathe in His immense pleasures, that vast and endless ocean of felicity unknown. And full it must needs be, to fill all the vessels of mercy to the utmost of their finite capacities, with ineffable and endless joy and glory, since it is full for God Himself to a boundless eternity. We shall then, by glory-union, be “in the Son and in the Father,” encompassed round with a vast ocean of bliss, immense and endless, and that not simply as single persons, but as a body collectively, unto eternal praise, in which the innumerable company of holy angels will join with their eternal adorations and loud acclamations!
But, what the joys and glories of Christ’s righteousness upon us, clearly and constantly beheld by us—of perfect holiness in principle within us; of immediate vision and full fruition of God the Lamb; of a full conformity to His image in the internal acts of perfected graces; of an eternal dedication to His eternal praise, together with a full and eternal communion with saints and angels—will be in their own vast greatness, nothing less than the state of glory itself can inform us.
This, my dear friend, is a weak essay to lisp out the ineffable felicity of happy spirits IN a separate state. But oh, how small a part of it can be told! It is a subject fit for our admiration, but far surpasses all expression. And until we also are blessed with sight, we are called to live by faith.
That “your fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit,” may more and more increase unto a growing conformity to the divine image, and a more constant employ in Jehovah’s praise, until you are called to inherit eternal bliss, is my hearty desire.
Mr. James Hervey,I bless our dear Lord for the great things which He has done for you, and that He has enabled you to write your Meditations. They came out of His fullness, they shine with His beauties, and are truly excellent, as under His influence they sweetly and simply lead unto Him, the Most Excellent One—the wonder and joy of heaven and earth—through all time—and to all eternity. I congratulate your happiness, dear Sir, in that the Lord the Savior has given you a capacious soul to behold—and a learned tongue to express, His ineffable beauties and glories, which are cast upon, and shine through, every creature and thing in the upper and lower world. It was He who gave you the mental eye, that new-created your sin-darkened mind, and gave it a superior capacity, by faith, for converse with brighter glories than the first Adam was capable of, by the utmost stretch of his perfect reason. It was He who presented every beauty to your spiritual eye, that darted every ray of glory upon your illuminated mind, in your converse with seen and unseen things, in the visible and invisible worlds; it was the Lord your Savior, who loved every instruction and every delight into your mind, who gave the matter and form of every idea impressive and expressive of whatever your eyes beheld; yes, who loved Himself to you, and you unto, into, Him. In love to Him, then, we will join to give Him glory.
In Christ there is enough to instruct, delight and fill you unto endless ages. Here, in the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified, you may expatiate, stretch your utmost capacities, swim and dive and live forever; for while you know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, you shall be filled with all the fullness of God. It is most delightful to me to see Christ the Alpha and Omega of all your thoughts, that you begin and end with Him in everything. Alas, how empty, dear Sir, would all your fine language be if Christ was not in it! It is He who fills your volumes and makes then truly valuable. I rejoice that the Lord has given this, your labor of love, such a large circuit and acceptance; I trust its usefulness will be as extensive as its progress, and that many will be blessed with the knowledge of Christ, and their hearts fired with love to Him thereby, to His glory and their endless joy.
For myself, Sir, I can say, to the praise of our good God, and, I hope, unto your joy, that what you have written has been blessed to bring Christ to me, and me to Him, in further sweet communion, to endear every mercy to me, as the price of His blood, and to endear my heart to Him thereby, and engage me to give Him glory. It gladdens my heart, Sir, to see the love of Christ shed abroad in yours, and the gratitude of your soul awakened thereby, and upon the flow, as a hasty stream, by which you yourself are wafted into Him and His love’s ocean. Favorite of heaven! Lover of the altogether lovely Jesus! Seek the Lord and His strength, that you may ever stand fast in His glorious gospel, and never be ashamed of any of its precious truths. Lay out your love to Him, who ineffably and infinitely loved you, in spreading the precious savor of His name as the Lord our righteousness and strength—our righteousness for justification, unto acceptance with God; our strength for sanctification, unto conformity to His image—and tell the world your joys, the triumphs of your faith, in your Savior’s blood, when your interest therein is sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which casts out bondage-fear and gives you filial freedom in the service of that glorious God unto whose praise and honor your happy soul is devoted. These things, Sir, which brightly shine in the volumes you most kindly were pleased to present me with, delight me much, and most heartily I pray the Lord to increase you and your usefulness more and more.
Dear Madam, At your request I attempt, as the Lord may afford light and assistance, to give you my thoughts on those words of Psalm 71:20, 21—”Though You have showed me great and sore troubles, You shall quicken me again, and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.”
These words of the royal psalmist express his present mournful experience, and his strong faith in God for deliverance, to Jehovah’s praise and his own bliss (as verses 22, 23); and in them, we may observe—
That great and sore troubles are the lot of God’s dearest children.
That it is the Lord that brings their greatest troubles upon them.
That these troubles may be so great as to make them seem, in their own apprehension, like dead men, yes, as men buried deep in the earth.
That from the greatest death the Lord will raise His people unto a renewed life.
That it is God’s design in the deepest dejection and humiliation of His children to raise them unto a higher exaltation and a more abundant consolation.
That the faith of the psalmist and of all the saints was and is founded upon God’s faithful promise.
That the faith of approaching deliverance, as beheld in the promise, is a mighty support to their sinking spirits and a reviving cordial to their fainting fits. To each of these, if the Lord pleases, a few brief hints, and we may note:
Great and sore troubles are the lot of God’s dearest children. The royal psalmist, who spoke these words, was a man after God’s own heart, an eminent saint, one of the Lord’s special favorites, and yet he was a man of very great afflictions. If we read the history of his life in the afflictive part of it, what was it but a scene of very great sufferings! How was he despised and falsely accused by Eliab, his elder brother, when the Lord had spirited him up, and fired his zeal to go forth against Goliath, that proud Philistine who defiled the armies of the living God! How was he envied of Saul when the people praised him, and the Lord was with him! How did Saul hunt for his precious life continually and persecute him severely, so that poor David began to faint, even long after the Lord had promised him the kingdom and Samuel the prophet anointed him to it, when he said, “I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul!” How sorrowful was his sad case, when his son—his beloved son Absalom—rose up against him, to destroy him and take his throne!
And if this psalm was composed, as it seems to have been, at the time of Absalom’s rebellion, what deaths, what depths of trouble was poor David under then! How was he obliged to flee for his life from Jerusalem; driven out from the place of God’s public worship, separated from the ark, and caused by grief to go up Mount Olivet, weeping as he went, with his head covered, and bare-footed, while all the people who were with him went up in like manner! And when come to Bahurim, how bitterly did Shimei curse him; how cruelly did he cast stones at him! How did Ahithophel, his wise counselor, with a multitude of his subjects, forsake him and join with Absalom; and cruelly and jointly did they plot his destruction! From his anointing to the kingdom unto his possession of it, and from that to his exit, how many were his adversaries, how great his adversities!
And if we look to CHRIST, of whom David was a type, as God’s king, set upon His holy hill of Zion, in His wars against his enemies He, though the Father’s first and most beloved Son, was yet in His humiliation state, “A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”—a man of sorrows by way of eminence from His cradle—the manger—to His painful death, the accursed cross, from the beginning of His life unto His dolorous death! His sorrows, who was the first-born Son of the Most High God, exceeded inexpressibly—inconceivably exceeded—all the sorrows of all the junior brethren, amassed together into one great heap of sorrow. Their sorrows were His, “He bore their sorrows, and carried their griefs.” His sorrows had the ponderous weight of the curse in them, but from their sorrows the curse is taken out and gone. It has been well said that “God had one Son without sin, but He has no son without sorrow.”
“Whom the Lord loves He chastens.” And Christ, the eldest glory Son, standing first in the Father’s love, must have the greatest bulk of sufferings, the most ponderous weight of sorrows—be a man of sorrows that dwelt, as it were, in sorrows; who was acquainted with grief; that was familiar with grief, as a man with his intimate.
And the APOSTLES, who were set first in the gospel church, had the most ponderous weight of afflictions. “We are fools for Christ’s sake,” says Paul, “we are weak, we are despised; even to this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands; being reviled we bless, being persecuted we suffer it, being defamed we entreat; we are made the filth of the world, and are the offscouring off all things unto this day, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, for we are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake.”
And when James and John, who were our Lord’s special favorites, requested to sit, the one at His right hand and the other at His left in His kingdom, He asked them, “Can you drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”—thereby signifying that suffering must precede reigning; and from the greatest even to the least of the saints, I think Dr. Goodwin’s assertion will hold true, that “where free grace sets itself most to love, there it bestows the most afflictions.”
Every child of God has his own part of sufferings that was allotted for him, and those who are blessed with the largest share of God’s manifestative favor have had, have and shall have, the greatest troubles here. And these troubles in their every kind and degree are all appointed and brought to pass upon the children of God’s infinite favor. Christ was foreordained to suffer, whence he said, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” And, says Paul, “God has set us forth as it were appointed unto death.” And as the sufferings of all God’s children are appointed for them, therefore, says Peter, “Let them which suffer according to the will of God (that is, His appointed will), commit the keeping of their souls unto Him in well doing.”
It is the Lord who brings their greatest troubles upon them. As He appoints them for His children, so He brings them upon them, whether they be troubles in soul, in body, in family or in circumstance, in the world or in the Church, they are all brought upon them by the Lord’s hand, either by His operation or permission; and thus the psalmist saw God’s hand—”Though YOU have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” Psalm 71:20.
And thus said our spiritual David, the Lord Christ, “YOU have brought me into the dust of death,” for of Him and His sufferings at His crucifixion, that assertion is to be taken; and even before it, He said unto Pilate, who vaunted of His power to condemn him to it, “You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above.”
And Paul says, “God has set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed unto death; for we are made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men,” in allusion to that cruel custom of the Romans, who, when they had condemned any person to be torn to death by wild beasts, after having led him about as a spectacle, brought him upon the stage for that purpose. And thus it is with all God’s children, “Not a hair of their heads falls to the ground without their Father;” not an affliction lights on them, but is brought on by His hand; and this, in their troubled minds, may cause a calm in the roughest storm, as no evil can touch them but what passes through God’s hands, and especially if their faith is in exercise concerning the infinite love of His heart in the sharpest strokes of His hand; but if they speak of their present case, so far as they judge by sense, we may note:
That these troubles may be so great as to make them seem, in their own apprehension, like dead men, yes, as men buried deep in the earth. This is implied in what the psalmist speaks, “You shall quicken me again.” It is as if he should say, “I am a dead man, as unable to help and deliver myself as a dead corpse is to raise itself again to life.” Yes, further, it is as if he should say, “I am a buried man.” This also is implied in what he speaks of being “brought up again from the depths of the earth.” If he had not been dead in his own apprehension, he would not have needed quickening; if he had not been buried deep, in his own estimation of his present state, he could not have been “brought up from the depths of the earth.”
Troubles, in the sacred Word, are styled deaths—”In deaths often.” Great troubles, great deaths—”Who delivered us from so great a death.” They are metaphorical deaths, for as natural death deprives the body of life and its comforts, so trouble, which is metaphorical death, deprives the soul, so far as it prevails and is indulged, of that life of joy which it had formerly in the light of God’s countenance and in the bounties of providence. And when troubles are great and sore, God’s dear children, judging by sense of their troubled condition, esteem themselves to be like dead and buried men. Thus Heman—”They have abandoned me to death, and I am as good as dead. I am forgotten, cut off from your care. You have thrust me down to the lowest pit, into the darkest depths.” Psalm 88:5-6
And thus the Jewish Church, in the great and sore troubles of the Babylonish captivity—”Our bones are dried, our hope is lost, we are cut off for our parts.” Here, they seem to apprehend themselves to be, not only in such a helpless, desolate condition as dead and buried men, but even that their case was as desperate, and they as far from hope of life as is a dead corpse when its flesh is consumed in the grave, its bones cast up, dried and scattered about the grave’s mouth. And with respect to their own apprehension of their desolate condition, and their utter inability to help themselves, and that of all the creatures to help them, the Lord himself thus represents them to the prophet. “He brought him in vision into the valley, which was full of bones, and caused him to pass by them round about, and behold there were very many in the open valley, and lo, they were very dry!” And then He said unto him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” But, nevertheless, we may note:
That from the greatest death the Lord will raise His people unto a renewed life. Thus, says the psalmist, “You shall quicken me again, you shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth.” Here is life spoken of in quickening, and renewed life in quickening again and bringing up again. David, before this, had been blessed with past experience, in former deaths of trouble, of God’s quickening influence—and thus the Lord blessed him again with life after death in the restoration of all the privileges of His kingdom after he had been driven from thence by force, which he foresaw, and, doubtless, all his future deliverances which were comprised in the promise when he spoke these words.
And thus the Lord Jesus after death was raised again to life—brought again from the dead. And thus the Lord spoke by His prophet to His people of old under their dead state and hope as above, and in them speaks to all His people under their greatest deaths, whether metaphorical, or natural, unto the world’s end, “Thus says the Lord God, behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord (the unchanging, the covenant-keeping, and promise-performing Jehovah) when I have opened your graves (and then, though He had said ‘O my people’ before, He repeats the appellation to show the infinite love and abounding affections of his heart, that source of life for them in death, and breaks out upon them again with an O), O my people, I will bring you up out of your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land; then shall you know that I the Lord have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord.” Again, we may note—
That it is God’s design, in the deepest dejection and humiliation of His children, to raise them thence to a higher exaltation and a more abundant consolation. Thus, says the psalmist, “You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.” When the Lord restored David again to his kingdom, he enjoyed it with all its privileges in an increased greatness, and with a more abundant sweetness, proportionable to the Lord’s great and gracious appearance for him, as His servant, in his so great and sore distress. The Lord’s design in bringing death upon His children is, not only their restoration to that life and joy which were taken from them, but also to raise them thence, from their deepest dejection and humiliation, unto a higher exaltation and a more abundant consolation. Thus the Lord speaks, when His people of old were to return out of captivity, “I will do better for you than at your beginnings.” “I will cause you to possess the double.” “In their land they shall possess the double.” The double of life and joy, of honor and glory, is God’s design to confer upon His people, when He restores them from death and sorrow, from reproach and ignominy.
And thus the Lord’s Christ, after His deepest dejection and humiliation, was raised by His Father to the highest exaltation, and made full of joy with His countenance, or had given Him a more abundant and eternal consolation. And thus the apostles, after their deepest deaths, were raised by God unto higher honor and glory in the Church militant, and reserved for them, to their higher honor, glory, and joy, was a richer crown in the Church triumphant. And as it is the Lord’s design to advance all His favorites highly, to prepare them for the enjoyment of that advancement more safely, to show His grace more gloriously in its bestowment, and the more abundantly to sweeten their enjoyment of it, He allows them, in His infinite wisdom, to sink into the deepest misery, that from thence, in His boundless grace, He might take occasion to exalt them more highly by His all-triumphant mercy and eternal truth and veracity.
Thus it was, in sin’s permitted first entrance, and now is, in all its permitted after-prevalence. Thus it is in all temptations from the world, and Satan, and in trying dispensations of providence, with which the Lord Himself is pleased to exercise His dear children. Darkness and death must be first, to set off the more that light and life with which they are to be blessed; yes, so wondrous is the Lord in His working, that He brings an increase of light and life out of the thickest darkness and deepest death; the greatest joy out of the utmost grief; the highest honor out of the deepest disgrace; the most plenteous fullness out of the most penurious circumstances; and eternal glory out of earthly misery.
Who, then, can withhold from saying, “Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord?” Who, then, of His children, would not give up himself entirely, most humbly and cheerfully, into His all-wise, all-gracious hands, in the most trying seasons? God sees a need, “that His children be in heaviness through manifold temptations, that their faith may be tried and thereby increased, and that it may be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ,” that so, now and then, “He may increase their greatness and comfort them on every side.” This He does and will do, in all our deliverances from distress, in time partially; but oh, to what a rich increase shall our tried graces rise, when time-trials are done, and a most enriched crown, in eternal glory, comes on! Then, then we shall be comforted on every side indeed. No side left open for sin and death, for sorrow and grief, for shame and reproach, for necessity of fear of poverty, but all-exalted in fullness of joy, of richest plenty, of greatest variety, and endless perpetuity, in the perfection of holiness and praise, and in the all-sufficiency of glory, we shall reign in life—in the second Adam’s life—which is, “life more abundantly” than that which the first Adam lost by iniquity; and in this life we shall reign to a blessed eternity! And as thus the Lord will raise his children from the deepest dejection and humiliation unto an higher exaltation and a more abundant consolation, we may note—
That the faith of the psalmist, and of all the saints, for all deliverances, for their earthy happiness and eternal bliss, was and is founded upon God’s faithful promise. “You shall increase my greatness and comfort me on every side.” How came David to say, ‘You shall’? Was it not because God had said, ‘I will’? Yes, verily. “God had made with him and everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, in which was all his salvation and all his desire!” And all the saints are savingly interested in that same everlasting covenant of free, absolute, and eternal grace, as David was, in which all their earthly deliverances and eternal joys and glories are comprised, while thus the Lord engages, for all the heirs of promise—”I will be unto them a God (an all-delivering, an all-exalting, an all-satisfying, and all-solacing, an all-justifying, an all-sanctifying, an all-glorifying, and an eternal God), and they shall be unto Me a people”—an all-delivered, an all-exalted, a fully-satisfied, a joy-filled, an all-justified, a perfectly-sanctified, and an eternally-glorified people.
This covenant of promise, which was originally made with our spiritual David, is confirmed and ratified forever by the precious blood of Christ, and by the solemn oath of Jehovah, and contains in it, as in one sum total, all the promises of God, which are all yes and amen in Christ, that lie, as in distinct parcels, scattered abroad throughout the sacred pages, to suit the various necessities and wishes of all the heirs of promise. And whether David or any other saint, in confidence of deliverance, by this delivering God, said, or says, You shall—whether herein he, or they, respected, or respect, the general, all-comprehending promise of the covenant, or any promise of it in particular—this is their faith; their faith of deliverance is founded upon God’s faithful promise, and “heaven and earth shall pass away, but not a jot or tittle of Jehovah’s promise-word shall ever fail.” And therefore, with respect to all heirs of promise, we may note—
That the faith of approaching deliverance, as beheld in the promise, is a mighty support to their sinking spirits, and a reviving cordial in their fainting fits. “I would have fainted,” said David, “unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” And the faith of assistance and deliverance, as beheld in His Father’s faithful promise, was a mighty support to our great Lord himself in His arduous redemption work. “For the Lord God will help me, therefore I shall not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” And what a reviving cordial to Him was faith in His Father’s faithful promise under His most depressing sufferings, when “He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him,” the joy of His Father’s highest glory—by His deepest ignominy; of His own greatest exaltation—after His lowest humiliation; and of His people’s salvation from all misery—and unto all joy and glory in eternal life, by His pouring out His soul for them even unto death.
Again, what a mighty support, what a reviving cordial, was the faith of deliverance as beheld in God’s faithful promise to the apostles and primitive Christians under their great sufferings. They ran their race, not at uncertainties, but in faith’s assurance, from the faithful promise, for an incorruptible crown. They were patient and joyful in all their tribulations, while they “looked not at the things which are seen—which are temporal, but at the things which are not seen—which are eternal.” They “reckoned that the sufferings of this present time were not worthy to be compared with that eternal glory which would be revealed in them.” And the faith of deliverance, as beheld in God’s faithful promise, has been, is, and will be, a mighty support and a reviving cordial to all the saints through all the ages of time, past, present, and to come.
We commonly say, in lesser things, “If it were not for hope, the heart would break.” And I am sure, I may say, “If it were not for hope—that good sure hope which springs from faith in God’s faithful promise, the hearts of all His people would certainly break, when pressed, as they think, above strength, under great troubles and sore distress.” How sadly did David faint, when he said in unbelief, “I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul,” upon which he fled from the coasts of Israel unto Achish, king of Gath. But though poor David met with troubles from the Philistines, and was severely distressed when Ziklag was burnt with fire—and his wives and those of his men carried captive—and his own people, his soldiers, spoke of stoning him, yet then, turning the eye and laying the ear of his faith to God’s faithful promise, faith had a mouth to speak comfort, by which “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” His faith in God’s faithful promise was a mighty support to him at this time of his distress, and such a reviving cordial it was that kept him from fainting under sense-apparent ruin, until he saw the promise in performance, in that part of it which respected his being brought to the kingdom, which time was then near to come, although to David it was unknown.
And thus the Church, when carried into captivity, in her doleful lamentations of her sad case and sore distress, while she remembered her affliction and misery, the wormwood and gall, her heart would have broken had it not been for faith and hope in God. But she called the Lord’s mercies to mind, His compassions, which fail not, and His faithfulness, which is great, and says in faith, “The Lord is my portion (whence hope began to spring), therefore will I hope in Him;” that is, for delivering mercy from the depths of her misery, unto renewed joy and rising glory. And again, this was the voice of her faith in God’s faithful promise, which secured her deliverance from greatest distress—”Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for He has torn, and He will heal us; He has smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days, He will revive us; in the third day, He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. His going forth (for our deliverance) is prepared as the morning (which will most certainly come in its season); and He shall come unto us as the rain, and as showers that water the earth,” to newly-robe it with greenness and fruitfulness, joy, and glory.
And oh, what a mighty support was this faith of the Church in her approaching deliverance, as beheld in God’s faithful promise, under the pressing weights of her present distress; what a reviving cordial was this in her fainting fits; and what saint is there who has not had, more or less, some blessed experience of this? Well, then, may we say with the Church, even in greatest adversity, “Rejoice not against me, O my enemy, when I fall I shall arise, when I sit in darkness the Lord will be a light unto me; He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness.” And with David, “You which have showed me great and sore troubles shall quicken me again and bring me up again from the depths of the earth; You shall increase my greatness and comfort me on every side.” With a few words I shall close.
And hence, my dear, worthy Madam, are you under great and sore troubles? Remember that these are the lot of God’s dearest children. And yield not to doubt of your being such because you have this mournful experience; and though the inward workings of sin at times under trying dispensations of providence is the greatest trouble of all, and puts your soul to grievous pain, this is a trouble that is peculiar to God’s own, and by this grief you may know certainly that you are one of the blessed family, to your heart’s joy.
Again, consider that it is the Lord that brings your greatest troubles upon you; not a trouble could touch you but by His operation or permission for the bringing it on. Say, then, “It is the Lord, let Him do what seems Him good;” and, “Shall I receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall I not receive evil?” And if the rod is in your all-wise, your all-gracious Father’s most kind hand, it will profit your soul in the end.
And are your troubles so great at times as to make you seem in your own apprehension like a dead person, yes, as one that is buried deep in the earth? Think, in faith, that when all help fails within and without, on every creature-side, then for you in your “Jehovah everlasting strength abides.”
Further, consider that from the greatest death the Lord will raise you unto a renewed life. You are not always to abide under the power of death. Christ is risen, you must rise; “because He lives, you shall live also.” And let your blessed experiences of past deliverances encourage your trust in God for future deliverances. Say, “God, who has delivered and does deliver, in Him I trust that He will yet deliver,”—that He will quicken me again, and bring me up again from the depth of the earth.
Yes, behold, it is God’s design in the deepest of your dejection and humiliation to raise you up to a higher exaltation and a more abundant consolation. The greater your death, the more abundant shall be your life; the lower your humiliation, the higher your exaltation; the deeper your dejection, the more abundant your consolation. You shall pass on by every waste to a richer increase of grace, from greatness to greatness; from joy before grief, unto a higher joy after it; from lesser gracious experience before suspended influence, unto a greater, richer, gracious experience under renewed influence. You shall thus pass from blessing to blessing here.
But, hereafter, oh, how highly will the Lord exalt you! At death, in your separate spirit, you shall enter into peace and be surrounded in and by those rivers of pleasure which flow continually at God’s right hand for evermore; and at the resurrection-morn you shall enter into your Master’s joy; and for grief, there will be no entrance; from the deepest of your soul-misery, from the lowest humiliation of your body, you shall be raised up to the highest joy, to eternal glory. “The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed you, and shall lead you to the living fountain of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes.”
Again, is your faith for all deliverance, for your earthly happiness and eternal bliss, founded upon God’s faithful promise? behold, this is a sure basis, for the God of promise is the God of performance. “He is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent; has He said it, and shall He not do it; or has He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” And “Those who trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever.” “They shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end.”
Once more, as you have had blessed experience that the faith of approaching deliverance, as beheld in God’s faithful promise, has been a mighty support to your sinking spirit, and a reviving cordial in your fainting fits, let this put you upon crying to the Lord for wisdom and strength to watch against and oppose the voice of unbelief, which casts the highest dishonor upon the God of promise, and doubles the weight of your every distress. And when the Lord favors you with pleading for prospects of deliverance, by turning the eye of your faith to the great, comprehensive, general promise of His new covenant, or to any particular promise, as a branch of it, by the Holy Spirit applied to your heart, endeavor to hold fast your confidence in the face of all gainsayers, for the honor of the God of promise, and for your troubled soul’s bliss; and be bold, also, to tell the enemies to their face that they are liars, and that you, in the strength of Jesus, shall tread upon their high places; for in the deepest distress, “the eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” And therefore, you may say with David, “You who have showed me great and sore troubles, shall quicken me again, and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.”
That “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, may keep your heart and mind, through Christ Jesus,” is the fervent prayer of your tender friend, who loves you in the affections of Jesus Christ.
Very Dear Sir,I am glad that you still rejoice in your sweet Jesus, though you have no other that you can call a friend. It is enough, beloved of the Lord, that Christ is your Friend, though all others should fail you, and no man care for your soul. There is such an infinite fullness, such an unsearchable depth of love and grace, of wisdom and knowledge, of tender care and loving faithfulness in your own Lord Jesus, that you need not go to the creature for compassion in misery, for ease in trouble, or for solace in sorrow. The Lord, your Friend, knows all your griefs, and by love-sympathy makes them His own. Lay your weary head in Christ’s bosom, and pour out your troubled heart before Him. His kind hand will wipe away all your tears, and His precious lips will drop sweet-smelling myrrh for your soul’s refreshment. And as Jesus your Friend will be with you in trouble, so, well will He bring you out of it. The wisdom and kindness, the power and faithfulness of the Lord your Friend, will overrule the lack of friendship in creatures, and all unkindnesses and disappointments you meet with from them.
For myself, I must say, the Lord is still infinitely kind, merciful, and gracious to vile, sinful, unworthy me. It has been His dear pleasure to try me greatly by permitting the ship in which my dear husband sailed for England to founder at sea, to the loss of his life. But most surely the Son of God has been with me in this burning fiery furnace, and His sweet presence, at times, loosed my bands, and caused me to walk at liberty. Heavy was the stroke to my weak nature, but glorious has been the display of divine power in supporting me under it. I long to love, honor, and adore my chiding, smiting, loving God. I believe He does all things well, and what I know not now, I shall know hereafter. I wait for the light of glory to open the mysteries of this dark providence, and rejoice in hope of it. Oh, how fast does our dear Lord gather His lilies! We had need work while it is day—the night comes, in which we can do no more for Christ in this world. Into the arms of Jesus—our love, our life, our all, I commit you. His grace be with your spirit.
Dear Madam,I am at this time sorrowful, on account of a letter I have received, “That the ship in which my dear husband sailed for England has, in all probability, foundered at sea.” This stroke, Madam, is so great that it was almost ready to overcome my weak nature. But, glory to my dear Lord, His strength has been, and is, made perfect in my weakness. Precious cordials have been given me when ready to faint, and mighty supports when ready to sink. My weak, willing spirit longs to glorify God my Father, and the Lord my Redeemer, under this sharp trial, by humble submission, patient endurance, and joyful, thankful acquiescence. Most surely the Lord, my own God, has done all things (and this) well—well for His own glory, and for my advantage—so well that it could not have been better than it is. And shall I not receive evil at the hand of the Lord, as well as good? Yes, by His grace assisting, I do and I will receive the evil of this affliction meekly and thankfully. Evil, indeed it is, as it is very grieving and trying in itself and its circumstances; but good it is for me to be thus grieved and tried, as this affliction flows from, is managed by, and shall end in the display of infinite goodness to me.
This very providence, the Lord tells me, is towards me goodness; and what I know not now, I shall know hereafter. I shall shortly see, with the veil cast off, all the mysteries of providence, opened in all its windings and turnings and cross-appearances, in a consistent light and glory with the exceeding great and precious promises, as having been all subservient to their fulfillment in my salvation and bliss, even when they seemed to thwart their accomplishment, and crossed my expectation and desire. And until sight comes, it is good to live by faith. I dread casting such a dishonor upon the Son of God, by over-much heaviness for the loss of a creature, as if He, the Creator, who is God, blessed forever, and mine in the nearest relation and in an indissoluble union, was not in Himself an object sufficient to satisfy and solace me through all times, and unto all eternity. Emptied I am, indeed, of a creature-comfort, of a near relative that was dear, and a blessing to me, but God has given me Christ, in whom all fullness dwells, never to take Him from me. I am in widowhood, yet, glory unto God in the highest, I am not a widow. My Maker is my Husband and my Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts is His name. Creatures die, but Jesus lives—lives as my Husband, in all the kindness and care, the tenderness and faithfulness, of that near and dear relation, and will show the same in a superlative and transcendent manner, far above the utmost that can be expected or found in the best of creatures. Yes, Jesus lives, as my life, in soul, in body, in grace, in glory, through time and to eternity. I have lost the shadow, but I have the substance—the stream, but I have the fountain, the immense ocean of all my bliss. And oh! for grace to behave under this frowning, emptying providence, as a soul thus satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord.
You see, Madam, how precarious and uncertain all things here are! Live beside the creatures while you have them—let Christ be the all of your enjoyment in them—and then, when they fail, and your own heart and flesh too, Christ will be your all in Himself—the strength of your heart, and your portion forever—an all of bliss and glory, ineffable and eternal. Value your own Lord Jesus. Let His price (His worth in your esteem) be far above rubies, and all creatures and things, desirable and desired. The all-beauteous Godhead is in Him. He is the mighty God, as well as the Man Jesus, for you. Emanuel is His wonderful, glorious name. His personal and relative glories are, and shall be, the wonder and praise of men and angels unto ages without end. Look upon His lovely face—there is not another such a beauty in both worlds! See, Madam, this is your Beloved, and this is your Friend. This is He who has loved you, and given Himself for you; that laid aside His glory and joy, who was the adoration of angels, and the darling of the Father’s bosom, to clothe Himself, His matchless Self, with your sin, shame, and sorrow, that He might raise you from the ash-heap of sinful nature to inherit with Him the joys and glories of the upper world; yes, to set you with Him upon His own throne! Oh, dear Madam, you are the Lamb’s bride, even you, who come unto God, as the God of peace, only by and through the sacrificed Lamb. Admire the Lamb’s love—the Lamb who was slain for you, that has wooed and won and betrothed you to Himself forever. Live upon Him, live to Him, and long to live with Him. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, is my hearty desire.