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In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul....Psalm xciv. 19.
Vain thoughts and carnal reasonings, like impertinent visitors, often intrude upon the christian's mind. In this depraved state it cannot be otherwise. Though born again of the Spirit, and our minds renewed by grace; still oar old friends, our present foes, the world, the flesh, and the devil, will furnish us with various exercises from troublesome thoughts. That they do cause grief, are'prayed against, and resisted, is a blessed evidence of a regenerate soul; which is also fed, delighted, and comforted with the spiritual truths of God's gracious word.
There are frequent seasons when God's dear children are exercised with distressing, gloomy thoughts. Alictions are painful and grievous to the flesh; then how naturally do these murmuring and repining thoughts arise? “ Are these the tokens of God's love? how can I who am thus visited with such sorrow, pain, and trouble, think the Lord loves me with the love of a tender father, or that I am his child?" The sight of our vile polluted nature, corrupt lusts, sinful passions and affections, sink and discourage our spirits. A multitude of thoughts arise within; how can I have faith in Jesus, love to him, and delight in his ways, while I find so much in me contrary to his will, and unconformed to his image? If the Lord hides away his face, and withdraws the comforting sense of his presence, then these dejecting thoughts beset us: God is acting in wrath against us....his
mercy is clean gone for ever. And with the church we are apt to think, “ The Lord hath forsaken me: my Lord hath forgotten me.".... Isa. xlix. 14.
This is all very natural. But what says the voice of grace? Most cheering, most delighting to the harassed mind. “Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivers out of them all :" “ As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten."....Rev. iii. 19. a woman forget a sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget; but I will not forget thee.".... Isa. xlix. 15. “ This man (Jesus) receiveth sinners.”..... Luke xv. 2. “ His blood cleanseth from all sin.”..., 1 John i. 7.
God's immutable love, unchangeable covenant, eternal truth, sacred word, precious promises, and solemn oath, all stand engaged for the safety and salvation of souls redeemed by Jesus: who saith, “ He that believeth on me shall never perish.”....John iii. 15. Shall any or all the powers of earth and hell make Jesus, the God of truth, a liar? The bible is the christian's charter. It is our wisdom to study that, and to judge of God's love from his word and promises, not by our circumstances, trials, frames and feelings: For, Whate'er thou found'st him at the best, Christ rests forever in his love, He's at the worst the same
He never lost his fame.
When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord;
and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.... Jonah ii. 7.
In the prophet Jonah's conduct we have a true picture of human nature, in its strong opposition to the power and grace of God. Though Jesus clothes his saints with righteousness, and the Spirit sanctifies and renews them in the spirit of their minds; yet pride, obstinacy, and self-will still dwell in their corrupt, fallen nature. The Spirit of truth and wisdom hath discovered the vile sins of his eminent prophets and faithful people, as well as their holy graces. This proves as a touch-stone to us, to try whether we have received the true grace of God in our hearts. A regenerate soul will never draw any encouragement to indulge himself in sin and rebellion against God, because he reads of David's complicated sins of murder and adultery; of Jonah's fleeing from, and provoking behaviour to God; or of Peter's sad denial of Jesus with abominable oaths and curses. If scripture truths proves as poison, it is only to reprobate minds. They are ever wholesome food to sanctified hearts. Such behold in the fall of the saints of old, the evils to which themselves are ever liable. If they are kept, they are humble; and give the dear Saviour all the glory. If they are fallen low, they remember the Lord. “I remembered the Lord,” says Jonah.' Grace creates a good heart-memory, where there is a bad head-memory. The soul can never forget the Lord Christ. It calls to mind the Lord's love, and how he dealt with his people of old. They see his loving kindness, faithfulness and truth, 'never failed them.
Hence the Holy Spirit stirs up and encourages poor, broken hearted, backsliding souls to trust in a God of covenant love.
A sense of pain brings the body into a weak, fainting state. So a sense of sin, fear of God's wrath, the hidings of his face in Christ Jesus, makes the soul faint and languid. But in the lowest ebb of hope, and under the weakest frames of soul, the sanctified memory, though it bears a faithful record of past sins, yet it is also a precious repository of God's free-grace truths, and most precious promises in Christ Jesus. His human nature is the TEMPLE, in which God and man meet; to which sinners look; and through which grace is bestowed. Hence the
soul is excited to mourn under the displeasure of an offended Father; and yet to cry to him in hope against hope; to pray to him in faith, though it has not one encouraging symptom in nature and self: but looking for all in Jesus. ( most blessed words from the Father to humble believing souls; “I will remember their sins no more."....Jer. xxxi. 34. VOL. I.
And now, little children, abide in him; that when he shall
appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.... 1 John ii. 28.
"A BURNT child dreads the fire :' so a soul who has fallen into any snare of the enemy, when rescued by grace, fears the same evil and wisely cautions his brethren against it. I fell, do you beware. So it was even with the beloved disciple John. He did not abide by Jesus in the day of trial; but, with the rest of his disciples, forsook him and fled. But who can tell the sorrow of his heart? who can paint the distress of his mind and the shame of his face, when Jesus appeared to them, and John said, “ It is the Lord?”....John xxi. 7.'
And is Jesus gone but for a season? will he assuredly come again and take all his little children home? and do we expect his appearance? do we believe we shall shortly see him in the glory of his Father and of his holy angels? What constancy and courage should this inspire us with! how ought christian soldiers to abide in Jesus the captain of their salvation; abide in a steady profession of his name; in a firm reliance upon his death and atonement; in a confident hope of being righteous in him; “accepted in him the beloved;” in an uninterrupted obedience to his will, and an earnest endeavour to follow his example! and above all, to abide in child-like dependence upon him, loving to be near him, conversing freely with him, pouring out our hearts before him, simply telling him of our weakness and dangers, our troubles and sorrows, and praying him to keep us from falling This is sweet and pleasant, thus always to abide in the faith of our Lord. The more we thus delight ourselves in the Lord, the more we grow dead to all things beside him. But, soul, be assured that conforming to a vain world, complying with its sinful customs, gratifying the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; as this is not abiding in the teachings of Jesus, it will weaken thy confidence in him, and bring shame upon thy soul before him. Thou findest it so even now, when thou dost approach unto his throne of grace. How often, from thy foolish forsaking thy master and his ways, have thy hands been made to hang down, thy knees feeble, thy heart faint! O how hath holy boldness in Jesus forsaken thee, and shame and doubts and fears overspread thee! O then if thou hast any regard for the glory of thy Lord, any concern for thy present peace and joy, study and pray to live and walk so as to enjoy the presence of thy Saviour.
I cannot bear thy absence, Lord ; I was not born for earth or sin,
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and
night to him, though he bear long with them? ....Luke xviii. 7.
This question implies the strongest assertion. Thus our Lord concludes a parable he had delivered to this end, “that men ought always to pray and not to faint.” Our Saviour well knew how ready his disciples' hands are to hang down and their hearts to grow languid and faint, so as to be remiss in this duty. Therefore his loving heart would stir up and encourage them to a constant perseverance in prayer; assuring them that God's ears are ever open to their cry, and his omnipotent arm would most certainly avenge the enemies of his own elect, and surely deliver them from all their troubles. Hath the Lord loved his people with an everlasting love? hath he chosen them in Christ Jesus from before the foundation of the world? hath he given them the precious faith of his own elect, and the cry of his children, Abba, Father? and shall an unjust judge deliver one whom he cares not for, and the just and holy Lord leave any of his beloved little ones to the power of any adversary? O, believer, never indulge such an hard thought of thy heavenly Father! Doth sin make thee cry? satan cause thee to call? the world excite thee to complain? Blessed be God for a throne of grace to go to, and an all-powerful King to protect and conquer for us. Duty is thine; be careful not to neglect it. Deliverance is the Lord's; be assured in his own time, way and manner, thou shalt receive it. Remember, one moment before thy Lord's time would not be thy mercy. ... Thy prayers, however frequent or fervent, do not influence the Lord to elect and chuse thee to salvation. No; but the
cry heart believing in Jesus is an evidence of election. Therefore thou art in Christ always acceptable to God; so are thy prayers through him: “ The prayer of the upright is his delight."....Prov. xv. 8. Though thy comfort may be often damped through the coldness and deadness of thy prayers ; yet art thou to persevere conscientiously in thy duty. Why? To profess thy subjection to the Lord: “He is thy Lord, worship thou him.”.....Psalm xlvii. 11. Therefore prefer a cold prayer before none at all. Better to bring words that want a soul, than neglect to bring our bodies which have souls in them: “ Take with you words.”.... Hos. xiv. 2....and say,
you cannot take the spirit and pray. This is the only foundation of hope of being heard, not our frames in duty; but the prevalency of Christ's intercession for us before the throne, and the faithful promises of God in him by the word and Spirit of truth. “Continue in prayer."..... Col. iv. 2.
Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it....Matt. vii. 14.
So Jesus taught. But teachers in every age have taught a broad way and wide gate. The greatest part of professors have readily received their doctrine. This is a melancholy truth. Therefore Jesus adds, “ Beware of false prophets.” It is the sole prerogative of the king of saints to open a gate and make a way to his own kingdom. Glory to our God, who in sovereign grace and everlasting love hath done this. The gospel proclaims, FREE WELCOME: COME who WILL: ENTER FREELY, WITHOUT MONEY AND WITHOUT PRICE. Jesus is the strait gate of God's love, the only gate of righteousness: by him we enter with access to God, stand perfectly justified and graciously accepted before him. Jesus is the narrow way. By the blood of his cross he hath made peace, atoned for the sins of transgressors by one offering. Hence called strait and narrow, because the only way to life is by ONE man, ONE righteousness, ONE atonement. Thus it is a gate of love: a way of grace. Too strait a gate for blind men to see : too narrow a' way for proud, natural men to submit to walk in. Hence “ few there be that find it.” But it is very awful to think of, whoever takes any other way or aims to enter by any other gate, goeth in the broad road to everlasting destruction. His boldness and confidence is no proof that he is right; but a melancholy sign that he is blind and deceived. For the way of a fool is right in his own eyes.".... Prov. xii. 15. And there is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death."....Prov. xiv. 12. But whoever enters the kingdom by Jesus, feeds in the pastures of grace, truth and love; he drinks of the river of consolation, and shall be nourished up to eternal life. Like a person who takes up his residence for life, in a more delightful kingdom than he was born in: so the believer is conformed to the laws, speaks the language of the New-Jerusalem, and “ hates the garment spotted with the flesh.” Thus the Holy Spirit leads the blind by the way they knew not, even the right way to peace, love, holiness, happiness, eternal life and salvation. Thus to a “ little flock it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom.”. By his word he directs them: by his Spirit he guides them: by his love he comforts them: by afflictions he profits them: by conviction of sin he humbles them: by the prospects of hope he animates them. All this is to make them walk steadily in Christ, who is THE WAY.
Christ is the sure foundation stone,
Which God in Zion lays,
And his eternal praise.
Chosen of God, to sinners dear,
And saints adore the name ;
Nor shall they suffer shame.