July 2: The True Temple Restored

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Romans 11:33

Behold this wisdom, as it shines in the recovery of lost and ruined man by Christ. Here is a manifestation infinitely transcending in greatness and glory the first creation of man in holiness. In the first creation, God had nothing to undo; no dilapidated temple to take down, no occupant to dispossess, no ruin to repair, no rubbish to remove, no enemy to oppose. But in the re-creation of man, how vastly different! The beautiful temple is a ruin—dilapidated and fallen. God is ejected; another and an antagonist occupant dwells in it, and enmity to its Creator is written in letters of darkness upon every part and over every inlet. In rebuilding this structure, all things were to be created anew. “Behold,” says God, “I create a new thing in the earth.”

It was a new and profounder thought of infinite wisdom, unheard, unseen before. Fallen man was to be raised—lost man was to be recovered—sin was to be pardoned—the sinner saved, and God eternally glorified. Now were the treasures of wisdom, which for ages had been hid in Christ, brought forth. Infinite wisdom had never developed such vast wealth, had never appeared clothed in such glory, had never shone forth so majestic, so peerless, and Divine. Oh, how must angels and archangels have wondered, admired, and loved, as this brighter discovery of God burst in glory upon their astonished vision—as this new temple of man rose in loveliness before their view!

The greatest display of infinite wisdom was in the construction of the model upon which the new temple, regenerated man, was to be formed. This model was nothing less than the mysteriously constituted person of the Son of God. In this, its highest sense, is “Christ the wisdom of God.” Here it shone forth in full-orbed majesty. Gaze upon the living picture! Look at Immanuel, God with us—God in our nature—God in our accursed nature—God in our tried nature—God in our sorrowful nature—God in our suffering nature—God in our tempted nature—yet untouched, untainted by sin. Is not this a fathomless depth of Divine wisdom? To have transcended it, would seem to have transcended Deity itself.

The next step in the unfolding of this Divine wisdom is the spiritual restoration of man to a state corresponding in its moral lineaments to this Divine and perfect model. This is accomplished solely by “Christ crucified, the wisdom of God.” And here, again, does the glory of God’s wisdom shine in the person and work of Jesus. Every step in the development of this grand expedient establishes His character as the “only wise God,” whose “understanding is infinite;” while it augments our knowledge, and exalts our views of the Lord Jesus, as making known the Father. Here was a way of salvation for perishing sinners, harmonizing with every perfection of Jehovah, sustaining the highest honor of His government; bringing to Him the richest glory, and securing to its subjects, as the rich bequest of grace, happiness eternal, and inconceivably great.

Oh, how truly did God here “work all things after the counsel of His own will”! How has He “abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence”! In Jesus’ sacrificial obedience and death we see sin fully punished, and the sinner fully saved—we see the law perfectly honored, and the transgressor completely justified—we see justice entirely satisfied, and mercy glorified to its highest extent—we see death inflicted according to the extreme tenor of the curse, and so vindicating to the utmost the truth and holiness of God; and yet life, present and eternal life, given to all whom it is the purpose and grace of the Father to save. Tell us, is not Jesus the great glory of the Divine wisdom?

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April 18: The Gospel In Power

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; . . . And you became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit. 1 Thes. 1:5, 6

THUS does the Spirit of God empty the soul, preparing it for the reception of the grace of Christ. He ‘sweeps and garnishes’ the house. He dislodges the unlawful inhabitant, dethrones the rival sovereign, and thus secures room for the Savior. He disarms the will of its rebellion against God, the mind of its ignorance, and the heart of its hatred. He prostrates the barrier, removes the veil, and unlocks the door, at which the Redeemer triumphantly enters.

In effecting this mighty work, He acts as the Divine Forerunner of Christ. What the Baptist was to our Lord, “crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord,” the Holy Spirit is, in heralding the entrance of Jesus to the soul. He goes before, and prepares His way. The Divinity of the Spirit furnishes Him with all the requisites for the work. He meets with difficulty, and He removes it—with obstruction, and He overcomes it—with opposition, and He vanquishes it. His power is omnipotent, His influence is irresistible, His grace is efficacious. There is no soul, however filled with darkness, and enmity, and rebellion, which He cannot prepare for Christ. There is no heart of stone which He cannot break, no brazen wall which He cannot prostrate, no mountain which He cannot level. Oh, for more faith in the power of the Holy Spirit in the soul of man! How much do we limit, and in limiting how do we dishonor, Him in His work of converting grace!

The providential dealings of God are frequently instrumental in the hand of the Holy Spirit of accomplishing this emptying process, thus preparing the soul for the reception of Christ. The prophet thus strikingly alludes to it: “Moab has been at ease from his youth, and He has settled on his lees, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel.” It was in this way God dealt with Naomi. Listen to her touching words: “I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty.” Thus it is that the bed of sickness, or the chamber of death, the loss of creature good, perhaps the loveliest and the dearest, has prepared the heart for Christ. The time of bereavement and of solitude, of suffering and of loss, has been the Lord’s time of love. Providence is the hand-maid of grace—and God’s providential dealings with man are frequently the harbingers of the kingdom of grace in the soul.

Ah! how many whose glance falls upon this page may testify “Even thus has the Lord dealt with me. I was rich, and He has impoverished me. I was exalted, and He has laid me low. Not one cup only did He drain, not one vessel only did He dash to the earth, but many. He has emptied me ‘from vessel to vessel.’ ” Happy shall you be if the result of all this emptying and humbling shall be the filling and enriching of your soul with larger communications of grace and truth from Jesus. A cloud of witnesses around you testify to this invariable principle of the Lord’s procedure with His people—that He enriches by impoverishing them; strengthens by weakening them; replenishes by emptying; and exalts by laying them low.

April 14: Divine Grace

Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us. Hebrews 10:15

THIS is sometimes a sudden work of the Spirit. A soul may be so deeply sealed in conversion—may receive such a vivid impression of Divine grace—such an enlarged communication of the Divine Spirit, as it never afterwards loses. It is sealed “unto the day of redemption;” and that, too, in the most simple way: in the hearing of a single sermon, the reading of a single chapter of God’s word, some promise brought with the power of the Holy Spirit and sealed upon the heart; in a moment the soul is brought into the full assurance of understanding and of faith.

Take for example that one precious promise which the Spirit has sealed, never to be effaced, upon many a poor sinner’s softened heart—”him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” Oh, what a sealing is this! God speaking to a poor, distressed, and disconsolate soul, assuring it of a cordial welcome and of a free pardon—that though no tongue can express its vileness and poverty, and no imagination conceive its deep sorrow, yet, coming to Jesus just as it is, it shall in no wise be cast out! Is not this an impression of the seal in the hands of the great Sealer, which is unto the day of redemption?

Sometimes it is as the Holy Spirit unfolds to the anxious soul that great truth, that Christ is the Savior of a sinner. You have been long waiting for some reward, some gift, some price with which to come—long lingering on the margin of the fountain, waiting for some preparation to enter—in other words, for it amounts to this, waiting to feel less vile, less unworthy, in order that you may be more welcome. And now the blessed Spirit opens to your mind that great and precious truth, that “Christ died for the ungodly,”—that He is the mighty and the willing Savior of a sinner—that no gift, no price, is asked—no previous fitness or self-preparation is necessary—that the more vile and unworthy, the more fit and the more welcome.

Oh, what an impression of the seal is this upon a wounded heart! When the glorious announcement is brought home to the soul—a full and free pardon for a poor sinner—the blood of Jesus cleansing from all sin—is it any marvel that no change of time or circumstance can ever obliterate the impression or the remembrance of that moment from the mind? It was a sealing of pardon upon a heart which God had made soft, and which was the sure prelude to, yes, the beginning of, eternal glory.

But, in most cases, the sealing of the Spirit is a more gradual work. It is a work of time. The soul is placed in the school of deep experience—is led on step by step, stage by stage. The knowledge of self and of Christ increases—deeper views of indwelling sin are discovered—the heart’s treachery is more acutely felt—the devices of Satan are better known—the mystery of God’s gracious and providential dealings with His children more clearly unfolded and better understood—and all this, it may be, arrived at through a process of deep and painful, yet sanctified, discipline of the covenant—so that years may elapse before a child of the covenant attains to the full sealing of the Spirit.

And yet, blessed be God, the work of regeneration is so perfect in itself—the blotting out of all a believer’s sins so complete, and his justification so entire—that a saint of God dying in the first stages of the Divine life is safe forever. May we not refer to the thief upon the cross, as an example illustrating and confirming this?

October 22: Sanctified By The Word

“Sanctified by the word of God.” 1 Timothy 4:5

It is the natural tendency of Divine truth, when received into the heart, to produce holiness. The design of the whole plan of redemption was to secure the highest holiness and happiness of the creature; and when the gospel comes with the power of God unto the salvation of the soul, this end is preeminently secured.

The renewed man is a pardoned man; the pardoned man becomes a holy man; and the holy man is a happy man. Look, then, at God’s word, and trace the tendency of every doctrine, precept, promise, and threatening, and mark the holy influence of each. Take the doctrine of God’s everlasting love to His people, as seen in their election to eternal life. How holy is the tendency of this truth! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”

Let not my reader turn from this glorious doctrine, because he may find it irreconcilable with others that he may hold, or because the mists of prejudice may long have veiled it from his mind; it is a revealed doctrine, and therefore to be fully received; it is a holy doctrine, and therefore to be ardently loved. Received in the heart by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, it lays the pride of man in the dust, knocking from beneath the soul all ground for self-glorying, and expands the mind with the most exalted views of the glory, grace, and love of Jehovah. He who receives the doctrine of electing love in his heart by the power of the Spirit, bears about with him the material of a holy walk; its tendency is to humble, abase, and sanctify the man.

Thus holy, too, is the revealed doctrine of God’s free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace. The tendency of this truth is most sanctifying: for a man to feel that God alone has made him to differ from another—that what he has, he has received—that by the free, distinguishing grace of God he is what he is—is a truth, when experienced in the heart, surely of the most holy influence.

How it lays the axe at the root of self! how it stains the pride of human glory, and hushes the whispers of vain boasting! It lays the renewed sinner where he ought ever to lie, in the dust; and places the crown, where it alone ought to shine, bright and glorious, upon the head of sovereign mercy.

“Lord, why me? I was far from You by wicked works; I was the least of my Father’s house, and, of all, the most unworthy and unlikely object of Your love and yet Your mercy sought me—Your grace selected me out of all the rest, and made me a miracle of its omnipotent power. Lord, to what can I refer this, but to Your mere mercy, Your sovereign and free grace, entirely apart from all worth or worthiness that You did see in me? Take, therefore, my body, soul, and spirit, and let them be, in time and through eternity, a holy temple to Your glory.”

All the precepts, too, are on the side of holiness. “If you love me, keep my commandments;” “Be you holy, for I am holy;” “Come out of the world and be you separate, and touch not the unclean thing.”‘ “God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness;” “That you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Holy precepts! May the eternal Spirit engrave them deep upon our hearts.

Not less sanctifying in their tendency are the “exceeding great and precious promises” which the word of truth contains. “Having, therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Thus holy and sanctifying are the nature and the effect of Divine truth. It is in its nature and properties most holy; it comes from a holy God and whenever and wherever it is received in the heart, as the good and incorruptible seed of the kingdom, it produces that which is in accordance with its own nature—HOLINESS.

As is the tree, so are the fruits; as is the cause, so are the effects. It brings down and lays low the high thoughts of man, by revealing to him the character of God; it convinces him of his deep guilt and awful condemnation, by exhibiting the Divine law; it unfolds to him God’s hatred of sin, His justice in punishing and His mercy in pardoning it, by unfolding to his view the cross of Christ; and taking entire possession of the soul, it implants new principles, supplies new motives, gives a new end, begets new joys, and inspires new hopes—in a word, diffuses itself through the whole moral man, changes it into the same image, and transforms it into “an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

October 14: A Kept People

“Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” 1 Peter 1:5

This salvation takes in all the circumstances of a child of God. It is not only a salvation from wrath to come—that were an immeasurable act of grace—but it is a present salvation, anticipating and providing for every exigency of the life that now is, including deliverance from all evil, help in all trouble; comfort in all sorrow, the supply of all want, and through all conflicts, assaults, and difficulties, perfect safety and final triumph. The present and certain security of the believer is provided for in the covenant of grace, made sure in Jesus the covenant Head, and revealed in the glorious covenant plan of salvation. May the Holy Spirit unfold to us this great and consoling truth, that in the midst of all their weakness, waywardness, and tendency to wander, the Lord is the keeper of His people, and that they whom He keeps are well and eternally kept.

The Lord could not in truth be said to be the keeper of His people, if there were anything of self-power in the believer, any ability to keep himself—if he were not weakness, all weakness, and nothing but weakness. Of this the believer needs to be perpetually put in remembrance. The principle of self-confidence is the natural product of the human heart; the great characteristic of our apostate race is a desire to live, and think, and act independently of God. What is the great citadel, to the overthrow of which Divine grace first directs its power? what is the first step it takes in the subjection of the sinner to God? what, but the breaking down of this lofty, towering, independent conceit of himself, so natural to man, and so abhorrent to God?

Now, let it be remembered, that Divine and sovereign grace undertakes not the extraction of the root of this depraved principle from the heart of its subjects. The root remains to the very close of life’s pilgrimage; though in a measure weakened, subdued, mortified, still it remains; demanding the most rigid watchfulness, connected with ceaseless prayer, lest it should spring upward, to the destruction of his soul’s prosperity, the grieving of the Spirit, and the dishonoring of God. Oh how much the tender, faithful discipline of a covenant God may have the subjection and mortification of this hateful principle for its blessed end, who can tell? We shall never fully know until we reach our Father’s house, where the dark and, to us, mysterious dealings of that loving Father with us here below shall unfold themselves in light and glory, elevating the soul in love and praise!

What an affecting confirmation do the histories of some of the most eminent of God’s saints afford to this most important truth, that the creature, left to itself, is perfect weakness! If the angels in their purity, if Adam in his state of innocence, fell in consequence of being left, in the sovereign will of God, to their own keeping, what may we expect from a fallen, sinful, imperfect creature, even though renewed? Do we look into God’s blessed word, and read what is there declared, touching the power of a renewed creature to keep itself? How affecting, and at the same time conclusive, these declarations are: “Having no might;” “Without strength;” “Weak through the flesh;” “Out of weakness were made strong”! Could language more forcibly set forth the utter weakness of a child of God? And what are their own acknowledgments? “The Lord is the strength of my life;” “Hold You me up, and I shall be safe;” “Hold up my goings in Your paths, that my footsteps slip not;” “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me;” “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

And what are the examples? Look at the intemperance of Noah, the unbelief of Abraham, the adultery and murder of David, the idolatry of Solomon, the self-righteousness of Job, the impatience of Moses, the self-confidence and trimming, temporizing policy of Peter. Solemn are these lessons of the creature’s nothingness; affecting these examples of his perfect weakness!

But why speak of others? Let the reader, if he is a professing child of God, pause and survey the past of his own life. What marks of perfect weakness may he discover, what evidences of his own fickleness, folly, immature judgment, may he trace, what outbreakings of deep iniquity, what disclosures of hidden corruption, what startling symptoms of the most awful departure and apostasy from God, does the review present! And, this, too, let it be remembered, is the history of a believer in Jesus, a renewed child of God, a partaker of the Divine nature, an expectant of eternal glory! Holy and blessed are they who, relinquishing all their fond conceit of self-power and self-keeping, shall pray, and cease not to pray, “Lord, hold You me up, and I shall be safe!” “Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.”