September 13: What Manner Of Love

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.” 1 John 3:1

IT is not strange that the fact of his adoption should meet with much misgiving in the Christian’s mind, seeing that it is a truth so spiritual, flows from a source so concealed, and has its seat in the profound recesses of the soul. The very stupendousness of the relationship staggers our belief. To be fully assured of our divine adoption demands other than the testimony either of our own feelings, or the opinion of men.

Our feelings—sometimes excited and visionary—may mislead; the opinion of others—often fond and partial—may deceive us. The grand, the divine, and only safe testimony is “the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit.” There exists a strong combination of evil, tending to shake the Christian’s confidence in the belief of his sonship.

Satan is ever on the watch to insinuate the doubt. He tried the experiment with our Lord: “If You be the Son of God.” In no instance would it appear that he actually denied the truth of Christ’s Divine Sonship; the utmost that his temerity permitted was the suggestion to the mind of a doubt; leaving it there to its own working. Our blessed Lord thus assailed, it is no marvel that His disciples should be exposed to a like assault.

The world, too, presumes to call it in question. “The world knows us not, because it knew Him not.” Ignorant of the Divine Original, how can it recognize the Divine lineaments in the faint and imperfect copy? It has no vocabulary by which it can decipher the “new name written in the white stone.” The sons of God are in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, illumining it with their light, and preserving it by their grace, yet disguised from its knowledge, and hidden from its view.

But the strongest doubts touching the validity of his adoption are those engender in the believer’s own mind. Oh! there is much there to generate and foster the painful misgiving. We have said that the very greatness of the favor, the stupendousness of the relationship, startles the mind, and staggers our faith. “What! to be a child of God! God my Father! can I be the subject of a change so great, of a relationship so exalted? Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that You should exalt me to be a King’s son? Is this the manner of men, O Lord God?”

And then, there crowd upon the believer’s mind thoughts of his own sinfulness and unworthiness of so distinguished a blessing. “Can it be? with such a depravity of heart, such carnality of mind, such rebellion of will, such a propensity to evil each moment, and in everything such backslidings and flaws, does there yet exist within me a nature that links me with the Divine? It seems impossible!”

And when to all this are added the varied dispensations of his Heavenly Father, often wearing a rough garb, assuming an aspect somber, threatening, and crushing, oh, it is no marvel that, staggered by a discipline so severe, the fact of God’s love to him, and of his close and tender relation to God, should sometimes be a matter of painful doubt; that thus he should reason—”If His child, reposing in His heart, and sealed upon His arm, why is it thus? Would He not have spared me this heavy stroke? Would not this cup have passed my lips? Would He have asked me to slay my Isaac, to resign my Benjamin? All these things are against me.”

And thus are the children of God constantly tempted to question the fact of their adoption.

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June 23: Our Downward Tendency

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.” Philippians 3:10

Of the downward tendency of our hearts we are, alas! but too conscious. We need an antagonistic principle- something to counteract the overworking influence of an ungodly world. Where shall we meet with it?

We answer, in the power of Christ’s resurrection, felt, realized, and experienced in the soul. This is the argument of Paul: “You are a risen people, risen in union with Christ. If this be so, then seek after heavenly mindedness, setting your affections on things above.” What a heaven-attracting power, then, has this glorious truth! What is Christ? He is alive. Where is Christ? He is in heaven, at the right hand of God, as my head- my representative- my forerunner- my treasure- my all. Then, let me rise!

Shall not my affections soar to their best beloved? Shall not my heart be where its treasure is? Shall I set my mind upon things on the earth, when my Lord rose out of the earth, and ascended above the earth, and bids me rise and follow Him in faith, in spirit, and in love, until He calls me to come away to Him entirely, that I may be ever with Him and behold His glory?

If I am indeed risen with Christ, then let me evidence it by my increasing spiritual-mindedness. Christ, who is my life, is in heaven- why should I needlessly be buried in the earth? Why allow- as I appear to do- that there is an object upon earth whose claims to my love are paramount, whose beauty to my eye is greater, whose attraction to my soul is stronger, than my risen, ascended, and glorified Lord? Is there upon earth one who loves me as Jesus loves me? Is there one who has done for me what Jesus has done? Is there one who is doing for me now what Jesus is doing? Is there one who is to me such a friend, such a brother, such a counselor as Jesus? No, not one!

Then, why should not my thoughts be more with Him? Why should not my heart cling closer to Him? Why this vagrancy of mind, this truancy of affection, this wandering of desire; why this forgetfulness, coldness, and cleaving to earth, when my Lord is risen, and I am professedly risen with Him?

Oh, to feel more sensibly, more deeply; more constantly the power of His resurrection! Lord! I detect my heart settling down on creature things- objects of sense and sin. My business is a snare- my domestic blessings are a snare- my friendships are a snare- my position is a snare- the too fond opinion which others entertain of me is a snare- my grace, my gifts, my usefulness, through the corruption of my heart, are snares.

Lord, place beneath my soul the mighty lever of Your resurrection, and lift me towards Yourself! Oh, let me feel the earth-severing, the heaven-attracting power of Your resurrection-life! Having been buried with You by baptism into death, sincerely would I now rise with You, like as You were raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father; that I might walk with You in newness of life, until I reach You in the realms of glory.

June 2: He Prays For You

“I have prayed for YOU”. Luke 22:32

We must not overlook the individuality of our Lord’s intercession. As if forgetting for that moment the whole Church, and regarding Peter as representing in his person each tempted believer, Jesus makes him the especial object of His prayer. How much comfort do we lose in overlooking this truth- in not more distinctly recognizing the personal interest which each believer has in the love of Christ! “My grace is sufficient for you;” “I have prayed for you,” are the gracious words with which Jesus would meet each individual case.

Think not then, O believer, that you are alone, unloved, uncared for, unthought of- Jesus bears you upon His heart; and if loved, and cared for, and remembered by Him, you can afford to part with some creature stream, however loved and valued that stream may be. Keep your eye intently fixed upon your Lord’s intercession.

We too much lose ourselves in the crowd, and merge ourselves in the mass. We forget alike our individual interest in the covenant, and our personal obligation to glorify God in our different walks of life. But it is the especial privilege of the believer to concentrate upon himself, as in focal power, every thought and affection of God, just as the eye of a well-executed portrait may be said to fasten itself exclusively upon each individual in the room. “I have prayed for you.” O cheering declaration!

Christian reader, lose not sight of it. Come and lay your hand of faith upon the covenant of grace, and say, “the fulness of the covenant is mine.” Lay your hand upon the covenant of God, and say, “the God of the covenant is mine; Jesus, its Mediator, is my Savior. He obeyed, suffered, bled, and expired, all for me. ‘He has loved me, and has given Himself for me.’

Lord! do you think of me? does my case come up before Your notice? do You bear my burden upon Your arm, my sorrow upon Your heart, my name upon Your lips; and do You pray for my poor, assaulted, and trembling faith?

Yes, Lord, You do. I believe it, because You have said it, and press the precious truth, so rich in consolation, to my trembling, grateful heart.”

May 19: Marks Of The Regenerate

“Those who love God.” Romans 8:28

Surely it is no small mercy belonging to the Church of Christ, that, composed as it is of all people and tongues, its members as “strangers scattered abroad,” its essential unity deeply obscured, and its spiritual beauty sadly disfigured by the numerous divisions which mar and weaken the body of Christ, there yet is an identity of character in all, by which they are not only known to God, but are recognized by each other as members of the one family- “those who love God.”

Love to God, then, is the grand distinctive feature of the true Christian. The reverse marks all the unregenerate. Harmonious as their nature, their creed, their Church may be, no love to God is their binding assimilating feature, their broad distinctive character. But the saints are those who love God. Their creeds may differ in minor shades, their ecclesiastical relations may vary in outward forms- as rays of light, the remoter their distances from the center, the more widely they diverge from each other. Yet in this one particular there is an essential unity of character, and a perfect assimilation of spirit.

They love one God and Father; and this truth- like those sundered rays of light returning to the sun, approximate to each other- forms the great assimilating principle by which all who hold the Head, and love the same Savior, are drawn to one center, and in which they all harmonize and unite. The regeneration through which they have passed has effected this great change. Once they were the children of wrath, even as others, at enmity with God.

Ah! is not this a heart-affecting thought? But now they love Him. The Spirit has supplanted the old principle of enmity by the new principle of love. They love Him as revealed in Christ, and they love Him for the gift of the Revealer- the visible image of the invisible God. Who, as he has surveyed the glory and realized the preciousness of the Savior, has not felt in his bosom the kindling of a fervent love to Him who, when He had no greater gift, commended His love to us by the gift of His dear Son?

They love Him, too, in His paternal character. Standing to them in so close and endearing a relation, they address Him as a Father- they confide in Him as a Father- they obey Him as a Father. The spirit of adoption takes captive their hearts, and they love God with a child’s fervent, adoring, confiding affection. They love God, too, for all His conduct. It varies, but each variation awakens the deep and holy response of love. They love Him for the wisdom, the faithfulness, the holiness of His procedure; for what He withholds, as for what He grants; when He rebukes, as when He approves.

For His frown- they know it to be a Father’s frown; for His smile- they feel it to be a Father’s smile. They love Him for the rod that disciplines, as for the scepter that governs- for the wound that bleeds, as for the balm that heals. There is nothing in God, and there is nothing from God, for which the saints do not love Him.

Of one truth- the source of this feeling- let us not lose sight- “We love Him because He first loved us.” Thus the motive of love to God as much springs from Him as the power to love Him.

May 17: Joint Heirs

“Joint-heirs with Christ.” Romans 8:17

This must be understood in a limited though still in a very enlarged sense. In its highest meaning- touching the essential Deity of our Lord- He is the heir of all things. All worlds and all souls are His. All things were created by and for Him. Heaven is His throne, and earth is His footstool.

To participate in this heirship we cannot be admitted. Nor can there be any conjointure with Christ in the merit that purchased our redemption. Here again He is alone, no creature aiding the work, or dividing the glory. But, mediatorially, in consequence of the union subsisting between Christ and His people, they become heirs with Him in all the privileges and hopes appertaining to His kingdom. Our union to the Lord Jesus brings us into the possession of vast and untold blessings.

On the basis of His atonement we build our claim. He merits all, and we possess all. All the blessings and glories of our present and reversionary inheritance flow to us through Christ. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” “If a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” We cannot lay too great stress on this truth. We possess nothing- we receive nothing- we expect nothing, but through Christ. All is given to us in consideration of a righteousness which upholds and honors the Divine government.

Jesus is the meritorious Recipient, and we receive only through Him. Alluding to our right to, and our possession of, our inheritance, the apostle traces both to the atonement of the Son of God- “And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Thus it is alone through the “fitness” imparted by Christ, the merit He substitutes in our behalf, and the righteousness He imputes to us, that we become “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Blessed Redeemer! to what dignity and honor, to what privilege and blessing, to what hope and glory, our union with You has advanced us! We were fallen; and you have lifted us up; we were poor, and You have enriched us; we were naked, and You have clothed us; we were aliens, and You have made us children; we were bankrupts, and You have made us heirs: we lost all from fatal union with the first Adam; we receive all, and infinitely more, by our glorious union with You, the second Adam.

Oh, for a heart to love You! Oh, for grace to glorify You! Be increasingly precious to us, and may we be increasingly devoted to You!

May 13: Sealed Unto Redemption

“The Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30

The believer will never lose the sealing of the Spirit. The impression of God’s pardoning love, made upon the heart by the Holy Spirit, is never entirely effaced.

We do not say that there are no moments when the “consolations of God are small” with the believer- when he shall have no severe “fightings within, and fears without,” when the experience of the Church shall be his, “I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spoke: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer;”- all this he may experience, and still not lose the sealing of the Spirit.

In the midst of it all, yes, in the lowest depth, there shall be the abiding conviction of an interest in God’s love, which sustains, animates, and comforts. It will be seen, by reverting to the state of the Church above alluded to, that, although there was the consciousness of her beloved’s withdrawment- though he was gone, and she sought him but could not find him, called him but he gave her no answer- yet not for one moment did she lose the impression that He was still her beloved. Here was the glorious triumph of faith, in the hour when all was loneliness, desolation, and joylessness. Here was the sealing of the Spirit which never left her, even though her “beloved had gone.”

And while not a beam of His beauty glanced upon her soul, nor a note of His voice fell upon her ear, she still could look up and exclaim, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” Oh mighty power of faith, that can anchor the soul firm on Jesus, in the darkest and wildest tempest! And this is but the sealing of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit so deeply impressing on the heart a sense of pardoning love- so firmly establishing it in the faithfulness of God- the finished work of Christ- the stability of the covenant, and the soul’s adoption into the one family, that in the gloomiest hour, and under the most trying dispensation, there is that which keeps the soul steady to its center- Jehovah-Jesus.

And even should his sun go down behind a mist, he has the sustaining assurance that it will rise upon another world, in peerless, cloudless splendor. O yes! the sealing of the Spirit is a permanent, abiding impression. It is “unto the day of redemption,”- the day when there shall be no more conflict, no more darkness, no more sin. It is not to the day of pardon- for he cannot be more entirely pardoned than he is; it is not to the day of acceptance- for he cannot be more fully accepted than now- no, it is to the glorious “day of redemption”- the day of complete emancipation, longed for by the sons of God, and even sighed for by the “whole creation:” “and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

Oh, shout for joy, you sealed of the Lord! You tried and afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted- you who find the wilderness to be but a wilderness, a valley of tears- the way rougher and rougher, narrower and narrower- lift up your heads with joy, the hour of “your redemption draws near,” and the “days of your mourning shall be ended.” And this is your security- a faithful, covenant-keeping God, “who has also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”

May 12: Firm & Unshaken

“In whom also, after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Ephesians 1:13

Although it is most true that the moment a sinner believes in Jesus he becomes actually an “heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ,” and enters into the family as an adopted child, yet the clear and undoubted sense of this vast mercy may not be sealed upon his heart until after years. He may long have walked without the sweet sense of God’s adopting love in his heart, and the frame of his spirit, and the language of his soul in prayer, has been more that of the “son of the bond-woman” than the “son of the free-woman;”he has known but little of the “free spirit,”- the spirit of an adopted child- and he has seldom gone to God as a kind, loving, tender, and faithful father.

But now the Divine Sealer- the eternal Spirit of God- enters afresh, and impresses deeply upon his soul the unutterably sweet and abiding sense of his adoption. Oh, what an impression is then left upon his heart, when all his legal fears are calmed- when all his slavish moanings are hushed, all his bondage spirit is gone- and when, under the drawings of filial love, he approaches the throne of grace, and cries, “My Father!” and his Father responds, “My child! You shall call me, My Father; and shall not turn away from me!”

The sealing of the Spirit does not always imply a rejoicing frame. It is not necessarily accompanied by great spiritual joy. While we cannot forget that it is the believer’s privilege to be “always rejoicing,” “rejoicing evermore,” and that a state of spiritual joy is a holy as it is a happy state, yet we cannot suppose that the “sealed” are always in possession of this “fruit of the Spirit.”

It is perhaps more a state of rest in God- a state of holy quietude and peace, which, in many cases, seldom rises to that of joy. There is an unclouded hope, a firm and unshaken resting on the finished work, a humble reliance on the stability of the covenant and the immutability of God’s love, which is never moved even when there is no sensible enjoyment, and when comfort seems to die. It is a state corresponding to that which David thus expresses- “Although my house do not be so with God; yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although He make it not to grow.”

Perhaps more akin to Job’s frame of soul when he exclaimed, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Sensible comforts may be withdrawn, joy maybe absent- the Sun of Righteousness casting but a faint twilight over the soul- and yet, such is the power of faith grasping the cross of Christ- such the firm resting of the soul upon the stability of the covenant- upon, what God is, and upon what He has promised- that, without one note of joy, or one ray of light, the believer can yet say, “I know in whom I have believed.”

And why, we ask, this strong and vigorous reliance?- why this buoying up of the soul in the absence of sensible comfort? We reply, because that soul has attained unto the sealing of the Spirit. This forms the great secret.

May 7: Our Utter Insufficiency

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” Romans 7:18

The Lord will cause His people to know their total weakness and insufficiency to keep themselves, and that, too, not notionally, not theoretically, nor from what they hear, or from what they read, but from their own deep personal experience of the truth: yes, He is perpetually causing them to learn it. I do not allude merely to that blessed period when the Holy Spirit first lays His axe at the fabric of their self-righteousness- truly they first learn it then- but it is a truth they become growingly acquainted with; it is a lesson they are made daily to learn; and he becomes the most perfectly schooled in it, who watches most narrowly his own heart, is most observant of his own way, and deals most constantly and simply with the cross of Jesus.

With regard to the way which the Lord adopts to bring them into the knowledge of it, it is various. Sometimes it is by bringing them into great straits and difficulties, hedging up their path with thorns, or paving it with flints. Sometimes it is in deep adversity after great prosperity, as in the case of Job, stripped of all, and laid in dust and ashes, in order to be brought to the conviction and the confession of deep and utter vileness. Sometimes it is in circumstances of absolute prosperity, when He gives the heart its desire, but sends leanness into the soul. Oh, how does this teach a godly man his own utter nothingness! Sometimes it is by permitting the messenger of Satan to buffet- sending and perpetuating some heavy, lingering, lacerating cross. Sometimes by the removal of some beloved prop, on which we too fondly and securely leaned- putting a worm at the root of our pleasant out-spreading gourd, drying up our refreshing spring, or leading us down deep into the valley of self-abasement and humiliation.

But the great school in which we learn this painful yet needed and wholesome lesson, is in the body of sin which we daily bear about with us. It was here Paul learned his lesson, as the seventh chapter of his letter to the Church at Rome shows, and for which Epistle the saints of God will ever have reason to praise and adore the blessed and eternal Spirit. In this school and in this way did the great apostle of the Gentiles learn that the most holy, deeply taught, useful, privileged, and even inspired saint of God was in himself nothing but the most perfect weakness and sin.

Do not be cast down, dear reader, if the Lord the Spirit is teaching you the same lesson in the same way; if He is now ploughing up the hidden evil, breaking up the fallow ground, discovering to you more of the evil principle of your heart, the iniquity of your fallen nature, and that, too, it may be, at a time of deep trial, of heavy, heart-breaking affliction. Ah! you are ready to exclaim, “All these things are against me. Am I a child of God ? Can I be a subject of grace, and at the same time be the subject of so much hidden evil, and of such deep, overwhelming trial? Is this the way He deals with His people?”

Yes, dear believer, you are not solitary nor alone; for along this path all the covenant people of God are traveling to their better and brighter home. Here they become acquainted with their own weakness, their perpetual liability to fall; here they renounce their former thoughts of self-power and of self-keeping; and here, too, they learn more of Jesus as their strength, their all-sufficient keeper, more of Him as their “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” Cheer up, then, for the Lord your God is leading you on by a safe and a right way to bring you to a city of rest.

April 30: Our Sweet Adoption

“You have received the Spirit of adoption.” Romans 8:15

The Spirit of adoption is the same as the Spirit of God. There are two essential features which identify Him as such.

The first is, He imparts the nature of the Father to all the children of the family. In this there is a wide difference between a human and a Divine adoption. Man can only confer his name and his inheritance upon the child he adopts. But in the adoption of God, to the name and inheritance of God is added the Divine nature, imparted in regeneration; so that, in the words of our Lord, we become manifestly the “children of our Father who is in heaven.”

The second feature is- having begotten the nature of the Father, He then breathes the spirit of the child into the heart. He inspires a filial love. The love which glows in the believer’s heart is the affection of a child to its parent. It is not a servile bondage, but a filial and free spirit. Oh sweet and holy emotion!

How tender and confiding, how clinging and child-like is it! Such ought to be our love to God. He is our Father- we are His children. Why should not our love to Him be marked by more of the exquisite tenderness, and the unquestioning confidence, and the calm repose of a child reclining upon a parent’s breast? A child-like fear of God is another inspiration of the Spirit of adoption.

Love and fear are twin graces in the Christian character. The Spirit of God is the Author of both; and both dwell together and cooperate in the same renewed heart. It is not the dread of the servant, but the holy trembling of the child, of which we speak. It is a filial, loving, reverential fear. A child-like trust in God also springs from the Spirit of adoption. The trust of a child is implicit, affectionate, and unquestioning. Upon whose counsel may he so safely rely, in whose affection may he so fully confide, upon whose fidelity may he so confidently trust, as a parent’s?

God is your Father, O child of a divine adoption, of a heavenly birth!- let your trust in Him be the result of the relationship you sustain. It admits you to the closest intimacy, and invites you to the most perfect confidence. You have not a need, nor an anxiety, nor a grief, which is not all His own. His adoption of your person- an act of His spontaneous and most free grace- pledged Him to transfer all your individual interests to Himself.

To these we must add a filial obedience- “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Obedience, whether to the Savior’s precept, or to the Father’s law, is the test of love; and love is the spring of obedience. “All that the Lord God has spoken to us will we do,” is the language of that heart where the Spirit of adoption dwells. Such are some of the features of adoption.

April 29: Complete In Him

“You are complete in Him.” Colossians 2:10

Here is a truth, the vastness of which is only equaled by its unspeakable preciousness. The Lord Jesus is the life of our acceptance with God. We stand as believers in the righteousness of a living Head. Within the veil He has entered, “now to appear in the presence of God for us,” presenting all His people each moment complete in Himself. It is a present justification. “You are complete in Him,” “accepted in the Beloved,” “justified from all things.”

Perfection in himself the enlightened soul utterly repudiates. Completeness in anything that he is, or has done, he totally rejects. Incomplete his deepest repentance- incomplete his strongest faith- incomplete his best obedience- incomplete his most costly sacrifice- low in the lowest dust does he lay himself. Too wretched he cannot think himself- too little he cannot be in his own eyes. Language fails to express the deep self-loathing and sin-abhorrence of his soul.

But lo! a voice is heard- oh, it falls upon his ear like the music of the spheres- “You are complete in Him.” In one moment all is peace. The believing soul ceases from his works- the weary spirit enters into rest, because, believing, it enters into Jesus. In Christ he now stands complete. His pardon complete- his justification complete- his adoption complete- his whole person complete before a holy God! Is not this a vast truth? and is it not a glorious one? Where is the doctrine that exceeds it? Where is the declaration that has in it such life as this?

Dear reader, it may be you have long been looking at yourself for some one thing complete. Something- in your judgment you may reject the thought, yet in your heart there is that principle which has been looking for something in yourself to commend you to God- something to make you more acceptable to, more welcomed by, Him.

But behold where your completeness is found- in, and solely in, Christ. Oh precious truth! A poor, vile sinner, standing before a holy God, complete in righteousness! the object of His infinite love and delight, over whom He rejoices with singing.

Oh, how divine, how finished, how glorious must that righteousness be, which so covers your soul as to present you before a God of immaculate purity, “without a spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing!”