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.

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September 27: Trials Of Faith

“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusts in you: yes, in the shadow of your wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performs all things for me.” Psalm 57:1, 2

The exercise of faith strengthens, as the neglect to exercise, weakens it. It is the constant play of the arm that brings out its muscular power in all its fullness; were that arm allowed to hang by its own side, still and motionless, how soon would its sinews contract, and its energy waste away! So it is with faith, the right arm of a believer’s strength; the more it is exercised, the mightier it becomes; neglect to use it, allow it to remain inert and inoperative, and the effect will be a withering up of its power.

Now when gloomy providences, and sharp trials and temptations, thicken around a poor believing soul, then is it the time for faith to put on its strength, and come forth to the battle. God never places His child in any difficulties, or throws upon him any cross, but it is a call to exercise faith; and if the opportunity of its exercise passes away without improvement, the effect will be a weakening of the principle, and a feeble putting forth of its power in the succeeding trial. Do not forget, that the more faith is brought into play, the more it increases; the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes.

Some of the choicest mercies of the covenant brought into the experience of the believer, come by a travail of faith: it maybe a tedious and a painful process; faith may be long and sharply tried, yet the blessings it will bring forth will more than repay for all the weeping, and suffering, and crying, it has occasioned.

Do not be surprised, then, at any severe trial of faith; be sure that when it is thus tried, God is about to bring your soul into the possession of some great and perhaps hitherto unexperienced mercy. It may be a travail of faith for spiritual blessing; and the result may be a deepening of the work in your heart, increase of spirituality, more weanedness from creature-trust, and more child-like leaning upon the Lord; more simple, close, and sanctifying knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

Or, it may be a travail of faith for temporal mercy, for the supply of some need, the rescue from some embarrassment, the deliverance out of some peculiar and trying difficulty; but whatever the character of the trial of faith be, the issue is always certain and glorious. The Lord may bring His child into difficult and strait paths, He may hedge him about with thorns so that he cannot get out, but it is only to draw the soul more simply to repose in Himself; that, in the extremity, when no creature would or could help, when refuge failed, and no man cared for his soul, that then faith should go out and rest itself in Him who never disowns His own work, but always honors the feeblest exhibition, and turns His ear to the faintest cry. “Out of the depths have I cried unto You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice; let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.” “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears.” “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him; and saved him out of all his troubles.” Here was the severe travail of faith, and here we see the blessed result. Thus true is God’s word, which declares that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

The trial of faith is a test of its degree. We know not what faith we possess, until the Lord calls it into exercise; we may be greatly deceived as to its nature and degree; to walk upon the stormy water may be thought by us an easy thing; to witness for Christ, no hard matter: but the Lord brings our faith to the test. He bids us come to Him upon the water, and then we begin to sink; He suffers us to be assailed by our enemies, and we shrink from the cross; He puts our faith to the trial, and then we learn how little we possess.

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.

June 22: Resurrection Life

“The God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus.” Hebrews 13:20

How beautifully the apostle associates the two blessings! He is now truly the “God of peace” – the pacified God, the reconciled Father; and the evidence of it is His raising up His dear Son from the grave. Thus what a bright view does this truth unfold to us of God!

When we retire within ourselves, we see much to engender dark views of, and distrustful feelings towards, Him. But when faith travels to the grave of Jesus, and we see it empty, we have such an overwhelming evidence of the perfect reconciliation of God, of His thoughts of peace towards us, that instantly faith triumphs, and all our gloomy, trembling apprehensions of His character vanish and disappear. He is the “God of peace,” because Jesus is a risen Savior. And in proportion as you lay hold by faith of the resurrection-life of Christ, you will have that pillar to sustain you upon which rests the whole fabric of salvation.

The peace of God will fill your heart, as you know from experience the power of the Lord’s resurrection in your soul. The power of Christ’s resurrection, in fact, lies in a sense of pardoned sin, in our apprehension of complete justification, in the living hope of eternal glory. Jesus saves to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him, because he is a risen and a living Savior, and ever lives to make intercession in behalf of all His people.

Oh, deal believingly with a risen Christ! The same resurrection-power which brought back to life again the Head of the Church is exerted in effecting the spiritual resurrection of the Church itself. The true believer is already risen. He was once dead in sin, and entombed in the grave of his iniquities. But a power- the same which awoke the death-slumber of Lazarus- has darted from the tomb of Jesus, and has quickened Him to a new and a deathless life.

Oh, were we more directly to trace the mighty energy of the Eternal Spirit in our souls, raising us from the region of death to life and immortality, to that stupendous fact of redemption- the resurrection of Christ from the dead- how would it exalt our views of its importance, and fill our souls with its glory!

What must be the power of our Lord’s resurrection, that can even now awake the profoundest sleep of spiritual death! When the Spirit of God puts forth His own grace to raise a soul from the grave of sin, oh, forget not it is in virtue of a risen, living Savior.

Despair not of the spiritual life of any, though they may have laid in the grave so long as well near to have quenched all hope of their conversion, since Christ has risen from the dead, and is alive, to give life in answer to the prayer of faith. “The second Adam is a quickening Spirit.”

June 20: I Believe, Help My Unbelief

“For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26

It is delightful to trace the different exhibitions of faith which the Holy Spirit has presented to our view in His own Word. And he seems to have thus spread them out before us, that the ever varied and varying circumstances of the saints of God may be adequately met. In some sections of His Word, He has presented to our view sturdy characters, impressed with the lineaments of a strong, gigantic faith.

For example, that was strong faith in the centurion, when he said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” That was great faith exhibited in the case of the woman of Canaan, who, at the apparent repulse of the blessed Lord, would take no denial, but met His seeming objection by saying, “Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is your faith: be it unto you even as you will.” That, too, was strong faith in Abraham, who could take his son, his only, son, his son whom he loved, and offer him up at God’s bidding. And, to mention no more, that was strong, unwavering faith in Job, who could say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

But, on the other hand, the Holy Spirit presents to the view some of the weakest exhibitions of faith, in order that no dear child of God, reposing by simple reliance on Christ, might despair. That was feeble faith which the leper exercised when he said, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Here was no doubting of Christ’s ability- the only point He seemed to question was His willingness to cleanse him. That was faith of the same feeble character, exercised by the father who brought his child possessed of a dumb spirit to Jesus, to be dispossessed, with the request thus couched- “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” In this case, Christ’s willingness was fully believed, His ability only doubted; and yet, in both cases, the one that doubted His willingness, and the other that doubted His ability, Christ manifested His compassion and answered their requests.

Let no anxious, seeking soul, then, hang back from Jesus, because of the weakness of its faith. It may be small faith; it may be small in its degree, and weak in its exhibition; yet it is “precious faith,”- yes, “like precious faith” with Abraham and Job, and all the prophets and apostles. If it be faith, however small, it yet is “the faith of God’s elect;” it is of the mighty operation of the Holy Spirit, and though feeble, yet, if it directs its eye out of and off of itself, simply to Jesus, that single glance shall sweep the ocean fulness of His love in the soul.

June 9: Rest Ye Saints

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue you in my love.” John 15:9

What sweet repose is here for the saints of God. Does God rest in His love? then the believer in Jesus may rest in it too. Does Infinity, find repose here? then may a poor finite creature. Does Immanuel rest in it? then may I, resting in Immanuel. If it is enough for Jehovah, surely, it is enough for the people of Jehovah.

Our dear Lord’s exhortations harmonize with this truth, “Abide in me;” “Continue in my love.” Beloved reader, come and rest in this love- Jesus invites you to its blessed repose. Are you weary, tossed with tempest? Is there sadness in your spirit, sorrow in your heart, a cloud upon your mind? Is some crystal cistern broken, some fragrant flower withered, some fond and pleasant mercy gone? “Come,” says Jesus, “and rest in my love- rest in the reality of my love- rest in the depth of my love- rest in the tenderness of my love- rest in the deathlessness of my love.”

Oh blessed rest! Poor, heart-broken sinner, weeping penitent, weary, laboring soul! what do you need? Mercy? it is in Christ. Forgiveness? it is in Christ. Acceptance? it is in Christ. The silencing power of love? it is in Christ. A reconciled Father, a pacified God? He is in Christ. All that you need is in Christ.

Draw near, then, and rest in His love. The Father rests in Jesus, His justice rests in Jesus, His holiness rests in Jesus, His truth rests in Jesus, His power rests in Jesus- and in Jesus you too may rest! God rests in His love towards you, because He rests in the Son of His love. And in the Son of His love your weary, jaded, trembling spirit may find full and eternal repose. And whatever your present circumstances are, be the severity of your Father’s dealings what it may, ever remember that He still rests in His love.

Judging of Him by providences rather than by promises, your faith may become unhinged from this truth. But the standard by which you are to form your views of God’s character is the same by which you are to judge your own- His word. That word declares that He rests in His love, that He now rests in it, that He rests in it at the present time, and, therefore, He rests in it at the moment that His providences in your history are the darkest and most lowering.

When to your view all things seem against you- when even God himself seems against you- then is He resting with infinite satisfaction and delight in the love with which He has loved you from everlasting. And when all the mighty wheels of His providence are rapidly revolving, when event follows event, and convulsion succeeds convulsion- when your spirit is agitated, and your heart is alarmed, and your whole soul is awe-struck and appalled at the wonder-workings of His power, then is God calmly, serenely, resting in His love towards you, unmoved, unruffled, unbeclouded by the things which convulse the universe.

May 21: Come Unto Your Precious Physician

“Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there?” Jeremiah 8:22

There is! The physician is Jesus, the balm is His own most precious blood. He binds up the broken heart, He heals the wounded spirit. All the skill, all the efficacy, all the tenderness and crucial sympathy needed for the office meet and center in Him in the highest degree.

Here then, disconsolate soul, bring your wounded heart. Bring it simply to Jesus. One touch of His hand will heal the wound. One whisper of His voice will hush the tempest. One drop of His blood will remove the guilt. Nothing but a faith’s application to Him will do for your soul now. Your case is beyond the skill of all other physicians. Your wound is too deep for all other remedies. It is a question of life and death, heaven or hell. It is an emergency, a crisis, a turning point with you.

Oh, how solemn, how eventful is this moment! Eternity seems suspended upon it. All the intelligences of the universe, good spirits and bad, seem gazing upon it with intense interest. Decide the question, by closing in immediately with Jesus. Submit to God. All things are ready. The blood is shed, the righteousness is finished, the feast is prepared, God stands ready to pardon, yes, He advances to meet you, His returning child, to fall upon your neck and embrace you, with the assurance of His full and free forgiveness.

Let not the simplicity of the remedy keep you back. Many stumble at this. It is but a look of faith: “Look unto me, and be saved.” It is but a touch, even though with a palsied hand “And as many as touched him were made whole.” It is but a believing the broad declaration, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” You are not called to believe that He came to save you; but that He saves sinners. Then if you inquire, “But will He save me? How do I know that if I come I shall meet a welcome?” Our reply is, only test Him.

Settle not down with the conviction that you are too far gone, too vile, too guilty, too unworthy, until you have gone and tried Him. You know not how you wound Him, how you dishonor Him, and grieve the Spirit, by yielding to a doubt, yes, the shadow of a doubt, as to the willingness and the ability of Jesus to save you, until you have gone to Him believingly, and put His readiness and His skill to the test.

Do not let the freeness of the remedy keep you away. This, too, is a stumbling-block to many. Its very freeness holds them back. But it is “without money, and without price.” The simple meaning of this is, no worthiness on the part of the applicant, no merit of the creature, no tears, no convictions, no faith, is the ground on which the healing is bestowed. Oh no! It is all of grace- all of God’s free gift, irrespective of any worth or worthiness in man. Your strong motive to come to Christ is your very sinfulness.

The reason why you go to Him is that your heart is broken, and that He only, can bind it up; your spirit is wounded, and that He only can heal it; your conscience is burdened, and that He only can lighten it; your soul is lost, and that He only, can save it. And that is all you need to recommend you. It is enough for Christ that you are covered with guilt; that you have no plea that springs from yourself; that you have no money to bring in your hand, but have spent your all upon physicians, yet instead of getting better you only grow worse; that you have wasted your substance in riotous living, and now are insolvent; and that you really feel a drawing towards Him, a longing for Him- that you ask, you seek, you crave, you earnestly implore His compassion- that is enough for Him.

His heart yearns, His love is moved, His hand is stretched out- come and welcome to Jesus, come.

March 27: Help Our Unbelief

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Cor. 5:7.

This walk of faith takes in all the minute circumstances of every day’s history; a walking every step by faith; a looking above trials, above necessities, above perplexities, above improbabilities and impossibilities, above all second causes; and, in the face of difficulties and discouragements, going forward, leaning upon God. If the Lord were to roll the Red Sea before us, and marshal the Egyptians behind us, and thus hemming us in on every side, should yet bid us advance, it would be the duty and the privilege of faith instantly to obey, believing that, before our feet touched the water, God, in our extremity, would divide the sea and take us dry-shod over it.

This is the only holy and happy life of a believer; if he for a moment leaves this path and attempts to walk by sight, difficulties will throng around him, troubles will multiply, the smallest trials will become heavy crosses, temptations to depart from the simple and uptight walk will increase in number and power, the heart will sicken at disappointment, the Holy Spirit will be grieved, and God will be dishonored.

Let this precious truth ever be before the mind, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

March 14: God Has Promised

“I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Isaiah 55. 3.

God had promised David that he would sit upon the throne of his fathers- that the kingdom of Israel, rent from Saul, should be transferred to his government. But the crown and the scepter thus promised loomed in the distance, almost enshrouded from view by dark intervening clouds. The promise seemed as a dead letter. The providence of God appeared to clash with and to contradict the promise of God.

But, in the history of His Church, the providences of the divine government are not the exponents of the promises of the Divine Governor. It is not so much by what God does, as by what God has said, that He is to be judged. Christian mourner, in the divine promises you have an equal proprietorship. They are as much yours as they were David’s, of whose “sure mercies” you are the possessor. These promises are exceedingly great and precious in their nature- they are personal and particular in their application- they are absolute and infallible in their fulfilment.

Death may appear to be written upon the promise, and upon all the means leading to its accomplishment, but there is a life in the promise that cannot die. See how God wrote the sentence of death upon the promise, as in the case of the age of Abraham- the sterility of Sarah- the abduction of Joseph- the demand for Benjamin- the banishment of David; and yet, in all the instances, the word upon which God caused those waiting souls to hope was made good to the letter; and the promise that appeared dead rose again with a life, all the more vigorous and glorious from its long and gloomy entombment. It is the believer’s mercy to know that he has to do with a Divine Promiser, whose faithfulness has been proved, and with a promise whose power has been tested.

There is not a promise with which the Holy Spirit the Comforter seeks to support and console you, but has passed through the crucible, and has been “tried as silver is tried.” “The word of the Lord is tried.” And if it be a fearful sin to doubt what God has declared, it is a tenfold aggravation of that sin not to believe, when a thousand times over He has made good what He has promised, and when a great cloud of witnesses testify that He has never once falsified His word.

March 13: Doubting Faith Is Not Doubtful Faith

“O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31.

Doubting faith is not doubtful faith. If the believer has not the faith of assurance, he may have the faith of reliance, and that will take him to heaven. All the doubts and fears that ever harassed a child of God cannot erase his name from the Lamb’s book of life, nor take him out of the heart of God, nor shut him out of glory. “Unbelief,” says Rutherford, “may perhaps tear the copies of the covenant which Christ has given you; but He still keeps the original in heaven with Himself. Your doubts and fears are no parts of the covenant; neither can they change Christ.”

“The doubts and fears of the elect,” remarks another, “are overruled by almighty grace to their present and eternal good; as conducing to keep us humble at God’s footstool, to endear the merits of Jesus, and to make us feel our weakness and dependence, and to render us watchful unto prayer.” Did ever an unregenerate, lifeless soul entertain a doubt or fear of its spiritual condition? Never. Was it ever known anxiously and prayerfully to question or to reason about its eternal state? Never. Do I seek to strengthen your doubts? No; but I wish to strengthen your tried and doubting faith.

I would tell you, for your encouragement, that the minutest particle of grace has eternal glory in it, even as the smallest seed virtually contains all that proceeds from it- the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear. Faint not, nor be discouraged in your trial of faith. There is not a sweeter way to heaven than along the path of free grace, paved with hard trials. It was the way which He trod who was “full of grace.” Rich though He was in grace, yet see how deeply He was tried. Think not, then, that your sore trials are signs of a graceless state. Oh no! The most gracious saints have been the most tried saints.

But do not rest here. There is still richer, surer comfort for you- even the fulness of grace that is in Jesus- grace, ever flowing, and yet ever full. Disclose to Him your doubts and fears. Tell Him you desire Him above all good. Plunge into the sea of His fulness; and He, who has created in your soul a thirst for grace, will assuredly and bountifully give you the grace for which you thirst.