April 23: For His Name’s Sake

For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it has pleased the Lord to make you his people. I Samuel 12:22

GOD rests in the immutability of His love. It is a love that knows no change in its character, and no variation in its degree. There never has been a period in which the love of God in Christ towards His people has been more or less than it is at this moment. It must have been great before conversion, because then it was that He gave His only begotten Son, that they might live through Him. Then, too, it was He sent His own Spirit to regenerate their minds, and to make them new creatures in Christ Jesus. If He thus loved them before conversion, when they were yet sinners, do you think, dear reader, that His love can be less since conversion! Impossible!

God rests in the unchangeableness of His love towards His saints. Nothing can move Him from it. When He set His heart upon His people, He foresaw and foreknew all that was in them. He knew when they would revolt, when they would start aside like a broken bow, when they would startle and fall. He knew all their waywardness, folly, and ingratitude. “I knew that you would deal very treacherously,” says God. And yet He loved them.

Acquainted with their sin, does He not chasten it? and in chastening, does He withdraw His love from them? Listen to His own words—”If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” What language can more strongly set forth the Lord’s determination to correct the departures of His people, while yet resting in the unchangeableness of His love towards them?

If God thus rests in His love towards us, how jealous ought we to be of the fervor and fidelity of our love to Him! Ah! how inconstant, wavering, and restless have been our affections! How little have we rested in our love to Christ! Other objects have attracted us away from it; we have been as changeable as the wind, and as unstable as the sea. But let us watch over this holy affection, apart from which God takes no pleasure in our sacrifices or services. Let it be our aim to yield up whatever rivals Christ. He sacrificed all for the love He bore us; let us sacrifice all that He requires for the love we bear Him.

Jesus is worthy—oh how worthy!—of our deepest, strongest, most self-consuming affection. And God, who gave us His Son, asks nothing in return but that we give Him our hearts. Let His love, then, constrain us to a more unreserved obedience, to a holier walk, to a more ardent, inseparable attachment to Him, to His people, and to His cause. Let us, in this day of easy and abounding profession—this day of papal encroachment and of popish imitation—this day of exaltation of human authority above the word of God—this day of error, of rebuke, and of blasphemy—this day of rapid and of excited action—this last solemn dispensation of the world, the events of which are rapidly ushering in the coming of the Son of man—let us, under the influence of more simple faith, more fervent love, and brightening hope, “go forth unto Jesus without the camp, bearing His reproach,” resting amid our conflict and our toil, where the Father rests—where the sinner rests—where we may rest—in Jesus.

April 15: The Smoking Flax

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, until he send forth judgment unto victory. Matthew 12:20

SURELY, it is a question of all others the most interesting and important, “Am I, or am I not, a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?” We do not say that the state of doubt and uncertainty from which this inquiry arises necessarily invalidates the evidence of grace which already exists; nor would we have it inferred, that the question itself indicates a healthy, vigorous tone of mind. But what we affirm is, that where there exists the principle of life, and a growing acquaintance with the plague of the human heart, with a conscience increasingly tender, the question will sometimes arise—”Am I a living soul in Christ?”

In enabling us to meet and satisfy this inquiry, how kind and condescending is God the Holy Spirit! A state of uncertainty as to his personal salvation cannot be regarded by the believer as the most favorable for the cultivation of personal holiness. He, indeed, is the most heavenly-minded, happy, and useful child of God, who, with the lowly confidence of the great apostle, can say, “I know in whom I have believed.” But we must admire the love of the Spirit in providing for the necessities of the weakest state of grace.

If saints of advanced stature in Christ can but little sympathize with the timidity, the fearfulness, and the weakness of children of more dwarfish proportions, not so the loving, faithful Spirit of God. He is never above His own work. The smallest part is too precious to His heart, to allow of the withdrawment of His eye from it for a single moment. It is not the extent of the territory which He has subjugated to Himself in the soul, that most thrills His heart with delight—this He is sure to perfect—but it is His having at all effected an entrance, and established Himself permanently there. This is the ground of his greatest triumph, the source of His highest joy—that after all the opposition and the difficulty, He should at last have gotten Himself the victory. Is it possible, then, that the tenderest bud of grace, or the faintest glimmering of light in the soul, can be a matter of indifference to Him? Ah no! Would Titian have despised a painting, upon whose outline He had stamped the impress of his genius, because its pencilings were not complete? Would Canova have destroyed his sculpture, almost breathing with life, because its chiselings were unfinished? And will the Holy Spirit, in drawing the moral likeness of God upon the soul, in modeling the mind for heaven, slight this, His master-piece of wisdom and of power, because of its present incompleteness? No!

The faintest outline of the Divine image, the roughest shaping of the Divine nature in man, presents to His eye more beauty, and symmetry, and skill, than the finest pencilings of nature, or the most perfect modelings of are. The universe of loveliness and of wonder contains nothing that can compare with it.

February 22: Examine Yourself

Let a man examine himself. 1 Cor. 11:28.

THERE is nothing clearer than this, that man must be a new creature if he would enjoy heaven. God could not make you happy, unless He made you like Himself. God must make you divine—He must give you new desires, new principles—He must create you “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” And you must ascertain whether this great change has passed over you.

The question must be—Have I “passed from death unto life”? Has my heart been smitten for sin—broken by the Holy Spirit? Have I come as a poor guilty sinner to the Lord Jesus Christ? Do not take all this for granted, but examine yourself, and see whether your heart has been laid upon God’s altar—whether it is a “broken and contrite heart, which He will not despise.”

Examine yourself to ascertain the existence of love to God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a most certain truth that “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Enmity against God is the great characteristic of the carnal mind—love to God is the great characteristic of the renewed mind. Do you feel that the name of Jesus creates a thrill of joy in your soul? Do you love God because He is holy, and because He is righteous? Are you in love with His government and with His law? Is it your delight and do you desire to be conformed to its teachings? Is it the supreme wish of your heart that God should rule you—and that you should submit to Him? Do you love Him for sending Jesus—His “unspeakable gift”? Do you love God as your Father—and because He sent His dear Son to bleed and die for you? Examine your own heart on these matters.

Examine your heart also, as to its governing principles. There are many deceitful things in the world. The wind is deceitful—the ocean is deceitful; but the most deceitful thing of all is the human heart. God searches the heart, and looks at all the principles by which we are governed; and no service is acceptable in His sight which does not spring from right motives. And oh, what self-seeking, what self-complacency, what desire for human approval is there in all our actions!

But ask yourself—Is my heart governed by love to the Lord Jesus, and by the fear of God? Can I unveil my heart in this transaction as under the eye of one who pierces my inmost thoughts? Can I appeal to God and say—Lord, sinful as I am, I desire to do all for Your glory, and to be governed only by love to You. Examine your heart then, and see what are the principles which actuate you. If they are false—oh cast them away, and ask God so to destroy the power of sin in you, and so to govern you by His love, that you shall only do that which is pleasing in His sight. No service can be acceptable, but that which springs from love to Him, and a simple desire for His glory.

But oh how acceptable, then, is even the smallest offering! It may be only the “widow’s mite”—or the “cup of cold water,”—but it is pleasing in the sight of God. It may be a service trying to yourself, and perhaps despised by others; but God sees your motives, and will accept your offering, if it springs from a principle in harmony with His will: “For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Can You Lose Your Salvation? An Exposition of Hebrews 6:4-6

It is no uncommon thing for the Lord’s backsliding children to be sadly and severely distressed and cast down by certain portions of God’s Word, containing delineations of character and denunciations of woe which they suppose applicable to themselves; and which, so applied, inconceivably aggravate their soul distress, their mental anguish, and incapacitate them from receiving the promises and accepting the comfort which God, in His Word, so profusely and so graciously extends to His children, returning from their backslidings, with weeping and mourning, confession and prayer.

Among the declarations thus referred to, which are supposed to have, the most direct application, and to wear the most threatening aspect, are those, so frequently quoted and as frequently misinterpreted and misapplied, found in the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews from the 4th to the 6th verse:

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

Such are the solemn words, often perused and pondered with terror and despair by the child of God, which we now propose briefly to consider and explain. But before venturing upon their exposition let me, in the outset, distinctly and emphatically give it as my judgment that they in nowise refer to the case of the regenerate, and that by no ingenuity of criticism, and by no perversion of error, can they be made to bear strictly upon a state of real grace, or to invalidate in the slightest degree the revealed doctrine of the final salvation of the elect of God. Thus affirming our belief that the persons referred to by the apostle were not true converts to Christianity, had never passed into a state of spiritual regeneration, let us take each separate clause of these remarkable passages, and endeavor, in the fear of God, rightly to explain, and properly to apply His own truth.

“Those who were once enlightened.”

Not spiritually or savingly enlightened. The persons to whom these passages refer had some perception of the doctrines and principles of Christianity,—the mind was intelligent, the judgment informed,—but nothing more. They had received the knowledge of the truth in the intellect, but not the quickening, sanctifying power of the truth in the heart. It was an illumination of the mind only. They were so enlightened as to “see the evil effects of sin, but not the evil that is in sin; to see the good things which come from Christ, but not the goodness that is in Christ; so as to reform externally, but not to be sanctified internally; to have knowledge of the gospel doctrinally, but not experimentally; yes, to have such light into it as to be able to preach it to others, and yet be destitute of the grace of God.” This is the enlightenment of which the apostle speaks, and nothing more. Their religion would, in modern terms, be denominated the religion of the intellect—a religion which, however sound in its orthodoxy and logical in its reasoning, is but as a palace of ice floating amid the snows and gloom of the polar seas.

But this description cannot apply to you, penitent child of God! The truth as it is in Jesus has enlightened your judgment, and from thence has penetrated your heart, and in its light you see the sinfulness of your backslidings, the consciousness of which has brought you in sorrow and confession to the Savior’s feet. It is safe, therefore, to conclude that you are not one of those persons whom the apostle describes as being once enlightened, as having swerved from the truth, whom it was impossible again to recover, seeing they had rejected the evidence upon which they avowed their belief in, and their attachment to, Christianity—the only evidence Christianity offers in proof of its divinity.

“And have tasted of the heavenly gift.”

A slight difference of opinion has existed as to the “gift” here referred to; some expositors, among whom is Owen, make the next clause exegetical of the present one. Without, however, perplexing the reader with needless criticism, we at once offer it as our opinion that the “heavenly gift” is the same as the “unspeakable gift” referred to in another place and by the same writer. It is quite possible for an apostate from the truth, having the illumination we have spoken of, to have possessed a certain knowledge of Christ, “the heavenly gift,” without being renewed, sanctified, or saved. Does not Paul speak of his “no more knowing Christ after the flesh,” as some still do, with a carnal, fleshly knowledge? Does he not, in another place, describe the conduct of some who had so far tasted of the heavenly gift as to “preach Christ,” but to preach Him with “envy and strife, and contention, not sincerely?”

And yet again, is it not true that the same apostle warns certain individuals against the sin of “eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord unworthily?” What does all this prove but that those who have tasted of the heavenly gift have no other knowledge of Christ than that which is natural, notional, and speculative? They have not Christ in their affections,—Christ as the object of supreme delight and love,—nor Christ in them the hope of glory. But you have not so learned Christ, O trembling penitent! It has pleased God to reveal His Son in you. You have tasted, felt, and handled, with a living, appropriating faith, the Lord Jesus. Your taste of this heavenly gift has been a heart-experience of His preciousness and fullness. And although you have gone astray like a lost sheep, yet you have not forgotten the power and savor of His precious name, which is now more than ever to you as ointment poured forth. And now your heart pines and your soul yearns to retrace its steps, to walk once more with the Shepherd whom you have forsaken, and to lie down again with the flock from whom you have strayed. What does this stirring within you prove,—this contrition, self-abhorrence, and sin-loathing,—but that you are not an apostate from the faith, a wanderer only from the fold, back to whose pasture and repose the faithful Shepherd is gently conducting you?

“And were made partakers of the Holy Spirit.”

This clause is more clear and definite. How far an individual may be said to partake of the Holy Spirit, and not be savingly converted, has been long a mooted question. These words, however, place the matter beyond doubt. The unhappy persons to whom they refer were undoubtedly partakers of the Holy Spirit, but in what sense? Let it be remembered that it was a distinctive feature of the early Church that there existed within its pale those who were endowed, some with ordinary, and others with extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; such as the power of working miracles, of prophesying, and of speaking with tongues, and that these persons were possessed of, and exercised in many instances these gifts, as instruments of pride, covetousness, and ambition,—the works of the flesh in alliance with the gifts of the Spirit!

Such, for example, was Simon Magus, who sought these supernatural endowments, not for the glory of God, but as sources of gain, and as ministering to his carnal aspirations. In his famous letter on “charity,” addressed to the Church at Corinth, Paul recognizes the fact, that he might be so far a partaker of the Holy Spirit as to speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and understand all prophecies, and all mysteries, and yet be destitute of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating grace. And clearly it is to such individuals our Lord so pointedly and solemnly refers in His dreadful description of the judgment, when He says, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?” To whom He will say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you that work iniquity.” In the absence of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, which we believe to have ceased in the Church with the last of the apostles, men may still be endowed with many ordinary spiritual gifts, conferring upon them a name, placing them upon a pinnacle of the temple, and winning for them the admiration and homage of their fellows, who yet are destitute of the converting grace of the Spirit. This is all that is meant by having been “made partakers of the Holy Spirit.”

But your case, penitent believer, bears no analogy to this. What does your present contrition, your distress and anguish of soul prove, but that you are quickened with spiritual life, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you? that, despite your sinfulness, waywardness, and follies,—the grieving and wounding and quenching He has received at your hands,— the Spirit has not utterly departed from you, but that still your body is His temple and your heart His home?

“And have tasted the good word of God.”

The meaning of this clause is obvious. The revealed word, more especially the gospel of God, is the only interpretation it will admit. These false professors, these willful apostates, of whom the apostle writes, had heard the word of God with the outward ear, and had so far tasted its power as to yield an intellectual assent to its doctrines, and even to have felt some transient emotion, some stirring of the natural affections by the sublime and dreadful tenderness of its revelations. They had marked, too, the extraordinary power and triumph of the truth in the souls of others, and, moved by the law of sympathy, they were for a while the subjects of a natural and evanescent joy.

They had witnessed the power of Satan in the human soul—how the gospel overcame it; the spell which the world wove around the heart—how the gospel had broke it; the period of perplexity—how the gospel had guided it; the season of sorrow—how the gospel had consoled it; the hour of sickness—how the gospel had strengthened it; the bed of death—how the gospel had smoothed it; the darkness of the sepulcher—how the gospel had illumined it; the fear of perdition—how the gospel had quelled it; the hope of salvation—how the gospel had confirmed it; the glory of immortality—how the gospel had unveiled it;—and their hearts were thrilled with a transient glow of gladness. Such were the emotions of Herod when he sent for John, did many things, and heard him gladly. And such, too, was the case of the stony-ground hearers, who heard the word, and anon received it with joy, but by and by they were offended, and fell away, not having root in themselves. These are they who had “tasted the good word of God,” and this is all that they had experienced of its power.

But not such is your experience, sorrowing soul! You have more than tasted, you have eaten of the good word of God, and His word is unto you the joy and the rejoicing of your heart. In that word your longing, sorrowful soul now hopes,—upon it, weary and sad, your heart now rests, until God shall fulfill its promise, and restore unto you the joy of His salvation.

“And the powers of the world to come.”

The age to come, as the word has been, and we think properly, rendered. Clearly the allusion is to the Messianic age, or the time and dispensation of the Messiah. This was the age, or the “world to come,” to which the apostle refers in another place: “The world to come, whereof we speak.” He is clearly referring to the gospel, in contradistinction to the legal dispensation; in the latter the word was spoken by angels, in the former the word was spoken by Christ. This age, or gospel dispensation, was to be ushered in and distinguished, “both by signs and wonders, and with diverse miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Now, it will not be difficult to trace the application of this to the apostates whom these passages describe. They had lived in the early dawn of the gospel age, and amid its most wondrous and stirring scenes. They had beheld these signs, had marked these wonders, and perhaps had wrought these miracles. And so they had “tasted of the powers of the world to come.” All this finds no application to your case, O backsliding yet returning child of God!

Now follows the sentence of the Holy Spirit upon these apostates from the profession of their faith. That sentence is the most solemn, the most terrible, that ever lighted upon the human soul.

“It is impossible, . . . if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

The key to the explanation of this dreadful mystery is found in the word “repentance.” Could they become the subjects of true repentance there might be hope, but with them this was impossible. For the fearful sin which they had committed, no repentance was provided,—for the deep guilt which they had contracted, no sacrifice had been offered,—from the apostasy into which they had plunged, no avenue of return had been made,—in a word, for the crime with which they were charged, no remission was given! Their salvation was IMPOSSIBLE! After having professed to believe in, and to have received the Messiah as the Son of God, as the Savior of men, they had openly and willfully and utterly rejected Him. By so doing they had repaired to Gethsemane, and justified the treacherous betrayal of Christ by Judas; they had gone to Calvary, and ratified the cruel murder of Christ by the Jews; they had fraternized with His enemies, and had joined their shout, “Away with Him! away with Him! Crucify Him! crucify Him!”

And so they had “crucified the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” After having passed through all these stages of sin, of crime, and guilt,—having utterly abjured and renounced the only means and object and grace of repentance,—it was IMPOSSIBLE that they could be renewed, recovered, saved! For them “there remained no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which should devour the adversaries.”

But, beloved child of God! we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation. The Holy Spirit has given you the truest, the strongest evidence of spiritual life in your soul—a broken and a contrite heart. Bring this sacrifice, and lay it upon Christ our “Altar,” and God will accept it. Let the holy lessons we learn from the mournful, the irretrievable, the hopeless case of the willful apostate be—not to rest on spiritual illumination, however great, nor on spiritual gifts, however eminent, nor on religious feelings, however ecstatic, but seek after the mortification of sin, a closer communion with the Lord, and still more to abound in those “fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the praise and glory of God.”

Upon you these dreadful words fling no darkling shadow, but your path is that of “the just, which is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day.”

Help Heavenward

November 11: Make Your Calling And Election Sure

“Rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10, 11

The doctrine of an assured belief of the pardon of sin, of acceptance in Christ, and of adoption into the family of God, has been, and yet is, regarded by many as an attainment never to be expected in the present life; and when it is expressed, it is viewed with a suspicion unfavorable to the character of the work. But this is contrary to the Divine word, and to the concurrent experience of millions who have lived and died in the full assurance of hope.

The doctrine of assurance is a doctrine of undoubted revelation, implied and expressed. That it is enforced as a state of mind essential to the salvation of the believer, we cannot admit; but that it is insisted upon as essential to his comfortable and holy walk, and as greatly involving the glory of God, we must strenuously maintain. Else why these marked references to the doctrine?

In Col. 2:1, 2, Paul expresses “great conflict” for the saints, that their “hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding.” In the Epistle to the Hebrews, 7:11, he says, ” We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.” In chap. 10:22, he exhorts them, “Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.” And to crown all, the apostle Peter thus earnestly exhorts, “Why the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” We trust no further proof from the sacred word is required to authenticate the doctrine. It is written as with a sunbeam, “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

It is the duty and the privilege of every believer diligently and prayerfully to seek the sealing of the Spirit. He rests short of his great privilege, if he slights or undervalues this blessing. Do not be satisfied with the faint impression, which you received in conversion. In other words, rest not content with a past experience. Many are satisfied with a mere hope that they once passed from death unto life, and with this feeble and, in many cases, doubtful evidence, they are content to pass all their days, and to go down to the grave.

Ah, reader, if you are really converted, and your soul is in a healthy, growing, spiritual state, you will want more than this. And especially, too, if you are led into deeper self-knowledge—a more intimate acquaintance with the roughness of the rough way, the straitness of the strait path, you will want a present Christ to lean upon, and to live upon. Past experience will not do for you, save only as it confirms your soul in the faithfulness of God. “Forgetting those things that are behind,” you will seek a present pardon, a present sense of acceptance; and the daily question, as you near your eternal home, will be, “how do I now stand with God?—is Jesus precious to my soul now?—is He my daily food?—what do I experience of daily visits from and to Him?—do I more and more see my own vileness, emptiness, and poverty, and His righteousness, grace, and fullness?—and should the summons now come, am I ready to depart and to be with Christ?”

PAs you value a happy and a holy walk—as you would be jealous for the honor and glory of the Lord—as you wish to be the “salt of the earth,” the “light of the world”—to be a savor of Christ in every place—oh, seek the sealing of the Spirit. Rest not short of it—reach after it—press towards it: it is your duty—oh that the duty may be your privilege; then shall you exclaim with an unfaltering tongue, “Abba; Father,” “my Lord my God!”

October 21: Chilled Affections

“Why say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto you? Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” Jeremiah 2:31, 32

When God becomes less an object of fervent desire, holy delight, and frequent contemplation, we may suspect a declension of Divine love in the soul. Our spiritual views of God, and our spiritual and constant delight in Him, will be materially affected by the state of our spiritual love.

If there is coldness in the affections, if the mind grows earthly, carnal, and selfish, dark and gloomy shadows will gather round the character and the glory of God. He will become less an object of supreme attachment, unmingled delight, adoring contemplation, and filial trust. The moment the supreme love of Adam to God declined, the instant that it swerved from its proper and lawful center, he shunned converse with God, and sought to embower himself from the presence of the Divine glory. Conscious of a change in his affections—sensible of a divided heart, of subjection to a rival interest—and knowing that God was no longer the object of his supreme love, nor the fountain of his pure delight, nor the blessed and only source of his bliss—he rushed from His presence as from an object of terror, and sought concealment in Eden’s bowers.

That God whose presence was once so glorious, whose converse was so holy, whose voice was so sweet, became as a strange God to the rebellious and conscience-stricken creature, and, “absence from You is best,” was written in dark letters upon his guilty brow.

And where this difference? Was God less glorious in Himself? Was He less holy, less loving, less faithful, or less the fountain of supreme bliss? Far from it, God had undergone no change. It is the perfection of a perfect Being that He is unchangeable, that He can never act contrary to His own nature, but must ever be, in all that He does, in harmony with Himself. The change was in the creature.

Adam had left his first love, had transferred his affections to another and an inferior object; and, conscious that he had ceased to love God, he would sincerely have veiled himself from His presence, and have excluded himself from His communion. It is even so in the experience of a believer, conscious of a declension in his love to God. There is a hiding from His presence; there are misty views of His character, misinterpretations of His dealings, and a lessening of holy desire for Him: but where the heart is right in its affections, warm in its love, fixed in its desires, God is glorious in His perfections, and communion with Him the highest bliss on earth.

This was David’s experience—”O God, You are my God; early will I seek You: my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where no water is; to see Your power and Your glory, so as I have seen You in the sanctuary. Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.”

Not only in the declension of Divine love in the soul, does God become less an object of adoring contemplation and desire, but there is less filial approach to Him. The sweet confidence and simple trust of the child is lost, the soul no longer rushes into His bosom with all the lowly yet fond yearnings of an adopted son, but lingers at a distance; or, if it attempts to approach, does so with the trembling and the restraint of a slave.

The tender, loving, child-like spirit that marked the walk of the believer in the days of his espousals—when no object was so glorious to him as God, no being so loved as his heavenly Father, no spot so sacred as the throne of communion, no theme so sweet as his free-grace adoption—has in a great degree departed; and distrust, and legal fears, and bondage of spirit have succeeded it.

All these sad effects may be traced to the declension of filial love in the soul of the believer towards God.

October 10: Many Backslidings

“Our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you.” Jeremiah 14:7

All spiritual declension in the true believer necessarily implies the actual possession of grace. We must not lose sight of this truth. Never, in the lowest condition of the believer, does Christ deny His own work in the soul. “You have a little strength,” are His heart-melting words to the backsliding church in Sardis. Oh, what a gracious, patience Savior is ours! But let us briefly trace this melancholy state to some of its causes, that we may be better able to point out its appropriate remedy.

The first cause undoubtedly is, the unguarded state of the soul. A Christian living in the daily neglect of self-examination must not marvel if, at a certain period of his religious course, he finds himself trembling upon the brink of gloomy despondency, his evidences gone, his hope obscured, and all the past of his Christian profession appearing to his view as a fearful delusion. But here let me suggest the cure.

Examine before God the real state of your soul. Ascertain where you have lost ground. Retrace your way. Look honestly and fairly at your condition. Discouraging and repelling as it may appear, look it fully in the face, and lay it open before God exactly as it is, in the spirit and language of the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

The grieving of the Spirit of God is a most fruitful cause of spiritual relapse. We have yet much to learn of our entire dependence upon the Holy Spirit, and of our eternal obligation to Him for all the blessings of which He is the author and the conveyancer. What themes for grateful contemplation to the spiritual mind are the love of the Spirit—the faithfulness of the Spirit—the tenderness of the Spirit—the patience of the Spirit!

And yet in the long catalogue of the believer’s backslidings, not the least is his grieving this Holy Spirit of God. But there is a remedy. Seek that Spirit whom you have driven from your presence; implore His return: beseech Him for Jesus’ sake to revisit you, to breathe His reviving influence as of old upon your soul. Then will return the happy days of former years, the sweet seasons of your early history, and you shall “sing as in the days of your youth, and as in the day when you came up out of the land of Egypt.”

“Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made You mourn,
And drove You from my breast.”

Distance from the cross contributes greatly to a state of spiritual declension. Retiring from beneath its shelter and its shade, you have left the region of safety, light, and peace, and, wandering over the mountains of sin, worldliness, and unbelief, have lost yourself amid their darkness, solitude, and gloom. Turning away from the cross of Jesus, you have lost the view you once had of a sin-pardoning, reconciled Father; and judging of Him now by His providences and not by His promises, and contemplating Him through the gloomy medium of a fconscience unsprinkled with the blood of Christ, you are disposed to impeach the wisdom, the faithfulness, and the love of all His conduct towards you.

But listen to the remedy. Yield yourself afresh to the attractions of the cross. Return, return to it again. No burning cherubim nor flaming sword guards its avenue. The atoning blood there shed has opened the way of the sinner’s approach, and the interceding High Priest in heaven keeps it open for every repentant prodigal. Return to the true cross. Come and sit down beneath its grateful shade.

Poor, weary wanderer! there is life and power, peace and repose, for you still in the cross of Christ. Mercy speaks from it, God smiles in it, Jesus stands by it, and the Holy Spirit, hovering above it, is prepared to reveal it to you afresh, in all its healing, restoring power.

September 23: Mercy Unending

“In a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you, says the Lord your Redeemer.” Isaiah 54:8

Many are the seasons of spiritual darkness, and sensible withdrawments of God’s presence, through which the believer is often called to pass. Seasons, during which his hope seems to have perished; and God, as he believes, has forgotten to be gracious; seasons, during which he cannot look up as a pardoned sinner, as a justified soul, as an adopted child, and say, “Abba, Father!” All is midnight gloom to his soul.

And while God seems to have withdrawn, Satan instantly appears. Taking advantage of the momentary absence of the Lord, for let it be remembered, it is not an actual and eternal withdrawment—he levels his fiery darts—suggests hard thoughts of God—tempts the soul to believe the past has been but a deception, and that the future will develop nothing but darkness and despair.

Satan, that constant and subtle foe, frequently seizes, too, upon periods of the believer’s history, when the providences of God are dark and mysterious—when the path, along which the weary pilgrim is pressing, is rough and intricate, or, it may be, when he sees not a spot before him, the way is obstructed, and he is ready to exclaim with Job, “He has fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness in my paths.” Or with Jeremiah, “He has hedged me about that I cannot get out.” Let it not then be forgotten by the soul that walks in darkness and has no light, that the providential dealings of a covenant God and Father, which now are depressing the spirits, stirring up unbelief, and casting a shade over every prospect, may be seized upon by its great enemy, and be appropriated to an occasion of deep and sore temptation.

It was thus he dealt with our blessed Lord, who was in all points tempted as His people, yet without sin. And if the Head thus was tempted, so will be, the member—if the Lord, so the disciple. And for this very end was our blessed Lord thus tempted, that He might enter sympathetically into all the circumstances of His tried and suffering people—”For in that He Himself has suffered being tempted, He is able to support those who are tempted.”

But a momentary sense of God’s withdrawment from the believer affects not his actual security in the atoning blood; this nothing can disturb. The safety of a child of God hinges not upon a frame or a feeling, the ever-varying and fitful pulses of a believing soul. Oh no! the covenant rests upon a surer basis than this; the child of the covenant is sealed with a better hope and promise.

He may change, but his covenant God never; his feelings may vary, but his Father’s love never veers: He loved him from all eternity, and that love extends to all eternity. As God never loved His child for anything He saw, or should see, in that child; so His love never changes for all the fickleness, sinfulness, and unworthiness, He daily and hourly discovers.

Oh where would the soul fly but for this truth? When it takes into account the sins, the follies, the departures, the flaws of but one week—yes, when it reviews the history of but one day, and sees enough sin in a single thought to sink it to eternal and just perdition—but for an unchangeable God, to what consolation would it resort?

September 15: The Rocky & Peaceful Shores

“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil; where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.” Hebrews 6:17-19

THE hope of heaven fostered by an unrenewed mind is baseless and illusory. There exists not a single element of goodness in its nature. It is the conception of a mind at enmity with God. It is the delusion of a heart in covenant with death, and in agreement with hell. It is the treacherous beacon that decoys the too confiding but deluded voyager to the rock-bound shore. Unscriptural, unreal, and baseless, it must eventually cover its possessor with shame and confusion of face.

But not such is the believer’s hope. Begotten with his second nature—the in-breathing of the Spirit of God—an element of renewed mind, and based upon the atonement of the Savior, it must be essentially a good hope. Cleansed from moral impurity, not in the laver of baptism, but with the blood of Christ; justified, not by the ritual of Moses, but by the righteousness of the incarnate God; sanctified, not by sacramental grace, falsely so called, but by the in-being of the Holy Spirit—the believer’s hope of heaven is as well founded as the throne of the Eternal.

Moreover it is “a good hope through grace.” The first and the last lesson we learn in our Christian course is, that “by grace we are saved.” Lord! do You require of me one thought of stainless purity, one throb of perfect love, one deed of unsullied holiness, upon which shall hinge my everlasting happiness? Then am I lost forever!

But since You have provided a righteousness that justifies me from all things, that frees me from all condemnation—and since this righteousness is Your free, unpurchased gift, the bestowment of sovereign grace—I clasp to my trembling yet believing heart the joyous hope this truth inspires. It is a blessed hope. “Looking for that blessed hope.”

Its object is most blessed. The heaven it compasses is that blissful place where the holy ones who have fled from our embrace are reposing in the bosom of the Savior. They are the blessed dead. The day of their death was to them better than the day of their birth. The one was the introduction to all sorrow, the other is a translation to all joy. Blessed hope! the hope of being forever with the Lord.

No more to grieve the Spirit that so often and so soothingly comforted our hearts; no more to wound the gentle bosom that so often pillowed our head. No more to journey in darkness, nor bend as a bruised reed before each blast of temptation. To be a pillar in the temple of God, to go no more out forever. And what a sanctifying hope is it! This, to the spiritual mind, is its most acceptable and elevating feature. “Every man that has this hope in him purifies himself even as He is pure.” It detaches from earth, and allures to heaven. Never does it glow more brightly in the soul, nor kindle around the path a luster more heavenly, than when it strengthens in the believer a growing conformity of character to that heaven towards which it soars. It is, in a word, a sure hope.

Shall the worm undermine it? shall the tempest shake it? shall the waters extinguish it? Never. It saves us. It keeps, preserves, and sustains us amid the perils and depressions of our earthly pilgrimage. And having borne us through the flood, it will not fail us when the last surge lands us upon the shore of eternity.

September 14: The Children Of God

“The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Romans 8:16

AS to the great truth thus witnessed to by the Spirit, we are not to suppose that the testimony is intended to make the fact itself more sure; but simply to confirm our own minds in the comfortable assurance of it. Our actual adoption cannot be more certain than it is. It is secured to us by the predestinating love of God and the everlasting covenant of grace; is confirmed by our union with the Lord Jesus, and is sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”

It is not for the benefit of our fellow-creatures, still less for the satisfaction of God Himself, but for the assurance and comfort of our own hearts, that the Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. The testimony is for the confirmation of our own faith, and the consolation of our own hearts.

But the question arises, What is the mode of His testimony? In attempting to supply an answer, we must acknowledge that we have no certain data to guide us. Sufficient light, however, beams from His work in general, to assist us in forming an intelligent and correct idea of His operations. How, then, may we suppose the Spirit witnesses with our spirit?

Not by visions and voices; not by heats and fancies; nor by any direct inspiration, or new revelation of truth. Far different from this is the mode of His testimony. We may gather from the measure of light vouchsafed, that He first implants within the soul the germ of spiritual life, which, beneath His culture, produces the “fruits of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” From these we are left to draw the rational deduction of our adoption.

If, for example, a child of God, with all lowliness of spirit, and after much prayerful inquiry, discover that, more or less, some of these effects of the Spirit’s operation are developed in his experience, then it is no presumption in that individual, honestly and humbly to conclude that he is a child of God. This is the Spirit’s witness, and he cannot gainsay it without wilful blindness, nor reject it without positive sin.

The breathing of the renewed heart after holiness supplies another illustration of the mode of the Spirit’s testimony. The panting after Divine conformity is the Spirit’s inspiration. Where, therefore, it exists, the deduction is that the individual is a child of God. Thus, be begetting in us the Divine nature, by producing in us spiritual fruits, and by breathing in our souls a desire for holiness, the Spirit conducts us to the rational conclusion that we are born of God.

By shedding abroad God’s love in the soul—by sprinkling the conscience with the atoning blood—by endearing the Savior to our hearts—by leading us more simply to rest in His finished work, yes, to rest in Himself—by creating and increasing love to the members of the one family, and fellowship with whatever is holy, heavenly, and useful, He thus testifies to our Divine relationship.