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ances of the God of heaven on our behalf ? Oh, believer, we know nothing comparatively of the character—the gracious, fatherly character - of our God. Well might the psalmist, in the contemplation of the same in his 107th psalm, exclaim in the fulness of his heart, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men !” Why, beloved, he seems to deal very strangely, very crossly and vexatiously with you and me sometimes, and we are ready to tell him that surely he might have spared us this trial and the other suffering ; that he might certainly have led us by a less crooked, and rough, and rugged way, than that he has appointed for us ; that so, instead of murmuring, complaining, sighing, groaning, his own word might be verified, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me." But, no ; the Lord has the end of the trouble, as well as the beginning and the middle part of it, in view ; and his own dear family shall most blessedly find in their happy experience, that “though no affliction for the present is joyous, but grievous, yet nevertheless it shall afterwards yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby.” It is generally after the trial that we discover the needs-be for the trial ; it is not until the affliction has come home to us, and cut very deep and sore, that we perceive our own treacherous hearts had procured these things unto ourselves. It is in and by tribulation the Lord leads us about into the chambers of imagery, and discovers to us what is in our hearts ; yea, and it is when he has deeply tried us, that he leads us to see the why and the wherefore that he hath visited us.
Again, it is in dark providences, heavy afflictions, an intricate path, we look within and discover the sentence of death. And what do we understand by this ? that there is no trust in ourselves ; that we cannot help, much less deliver ourselves ; nor make one hair white or black. But, in the general phraseology of the day, we are told to “ make use of the means ;” ay, so say we. See, however, that we begin at the right end of the means. You and I, beloved, frequently get into the midst of a maze of trouble, simply because we have first chosen our own way, and then asked rather the blessing than the counsel of the Lord. Now, the only safe way is to go to the Lord first, to watch the leadings of his hand, and to advance only as he leads us. Here we discover that Moses of old had a wonderful claim, if we may so speak, upon the Lord ; he had been favoured with such a sight of his own weakness and incompetency for the work to which the Lord had appointed him, that he was resolved to have the clearest evidence of the Lord's presence before he took a step, hence his language, “If thy presence go not with me, carry me not up hence.” The Lord is not angry with such ; on the contrary, he admires the fruit of his own teaching in the soul, and therefore to the patriarch he gives the delightful assurance, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Again, when Abraham went forth to the sacrifice of his beloved Isaac, it was by the Lord's leadings ; it was an act of the greatest selfdenial on his part, yet he had the word of the Lord on his side, and with all the affection of a parent, yet with the importunity of a soul heavily oppressed with the sentence of death indeed in himself, he went
forth simply leaning upon his Lord. The case, too, of Abraham's servant was singularly encouraging (see Gen. xxiv. 12, and following verses) ; there he was not merely led to ask counsel of God, but was indulged with a plea before him to bless the course which had been marked out on his mind. This we consider to have been a very peculiar case, and presume that the steps Abraham's servant had taken, and the operations of his mind, were evidently of the Lord. Before Jacob ventured to meet his brother Esau, he went over the brook and “wrestled with the angel until the dawning of the day.” These all were endowed with courage, fortitude, and a holy dependence upon the Lord to pursue their way. And why? Because, distrustful of themselves, they had been looking unto the Lord, and “acknowledging him.” And we might multiply instances (for the whole Bible is full of them) to show how very graciously the Lord's presence and blessing did accumpany his servants; and with what a holy wrestling they were indulged in subsequent trials, or trials immediately connected with the course they were led to pursue. “Didst thou not say,” exclaimed Moses, “that thou wouldst surely do me good ? Have I chosen my own way, or taken my own course ? Did I want to come, Lord ? Was it not at thy command I came, and in a simple reliance upon thy promise that thy presence should go with me? And wilt thou be unmindful of thy word ? Hast thou forgotten thy promise ? Didst thou not foresee these difficulties, and hadst thou not provided against them ? Didst thou not say that thou wouldst 'surely give me rest ?' Lord, here is no rest for me in the wilderness. Fulfil, then, thine own word ; lead on, strengthen, establish, bring through, for what wouldst thou do now with thy great name, if thou wert to fail in the accomplishment of thy purposes ? Is not the cause thine own, Lord ; and is there anything too hard for thee? Hast thou said it, and wilt thou not perform it ?”
And, poor, weak, tried believer, whoever thou art, who art afraid to open thy mouth, and who art tempted to believe that it is presumption thus to address the Almighty, be assured-or rather, the Lord himself assure thee—that it is no presumption to plead with the Lord the fulfilment of his own promise ; for he has said, “ Put me in remembrance ;” plead with me, wrestle with me, remind me of what I have said, for I have never said unto the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain.”
Viewing the subject, as we before remarked, in a temporal light, we are brought at once to consider the present state of affairs. The condition of the country, with its depressed commerce, is now the almost universal topic; we can scarely come in contact with our fellow-men, but what some fresh calamity in the commercial world accosts our ear; this, that, and the other one have failed, and an anxious solicitude attends the inquiry, Who will be the next? How will matters stand with so and so? Then, instead of regarding our present national condition as a mark of God's displeasure against national pursuits, national opposition to his pure unadulterated truth, and an almost national profession of a mere yea-and-nay Gospel, the attempt is made to account for the universal depression upon other grounds: “Oh, it arises from this and that,” says one and another, quoting a variety of second causes, and leaving out of the question Him by whom“ kings reign and princes decree justice ;" who orders all, and overrules and manages all, and who could in one moment, if he saw fit, bring the utmost order and regularity out of all this seeming confusion. At length, unbelief and carnal reason get such a powerful hold on the soul, that it seems, to use a plain expression, squeezed up into a nut-shell. There is no enlargement of heart, no sympathy for the dear tried family of the Lord, but an over-anxious concern about one's own temporal welfare and security; and a resolution to make what little we have doubly secure. Poor fools! and you think to secure it, do ye ? We say to you, and we say to ourselves (for we have no one in particular in view ; we draw the bow at a venture, and leave it to God the Holy Ghost to convey the arrow of conviction where he will), know ye not that “there is that that scattereth and yet increaseth, and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty?” Mark, it is the liberal soul shall be made fat; and one of the sweetesi feelings you can possess, is an open heart, and, as far as in you lies, an open purse, for the supply of the Lord's needy ones. Recollect, “the poor ye have always with you." But say you, “ It is but little we have, and how of that little can we communicate ; or, what is still more important, how shall we provide for our own necessities?” This just brings us to our point, the sentence of death in ourselves. Had the Zarephathean widow much stock in hand ? but did the barrel of meal waste or the cruse of oil fail ? Did the disciples “lack anything” after our dear Lord had sent them out without purse or scrip? And we will come a little closer, brethren, What did you and I possess at our first starting? Whom have we to thank for provision all the way along the road to the present hour? Have we to attribute it to ourselves, or to the good-will of Him that dwelt in the bush? Who gave us favour in the sight of this one and that one? Who turned the current in our favour? When we have been in perplexity and trial, and known not which way to look for deliverance, who has directed us? Who has gone before and prepared the heart to receive us; so that we have stood amazed, and had the most demonstrative proofs that, while we have been wrestling with unbelief and dismal doubts and fears at the feet of him who seeth in secret, he has been going forth in delivering acts-preparing the way for us—and then when the set time has arrived, and all made ready to our hand, the cloud has moved, the sound of his goings has been heard upon the tops of the mulberry trees even in the most minute circumstances; and we that had previously been all confusion, disorder, and dismay, go forth simply leaning upon our Lord, as passively, contentedly, and certain of deliverance, as if that deliverance had already been effected. Mark the Lord's direction in 2 Sam. v. 23, 24; and then behold the sweet leadings of his Spirit, first in the soul, and then in the guidance of the feet of his servant Nehemiah (see chaps. i. and ii.). Why, reader, you and I act as if our God were dead, or had ceased to exercise his almighty power on behalf of his family? Is he not the same God now as he was in the days of old, when Abraham, Elijah, and David-prophets, apostles, and martyrs-lived ? Is not his power the same? Are not his resources as extensive? And is not he, in his love, his compassion, his faithfulness, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever ? Suppose there were to be a national bankruptcy take place to-morrow, and the world were to be turned as it were upside down, do you think that our God would lose sight or be unmindful of “his few poor sheep in the wilderness ?" Oh, no, no!
“ Their names from the palms of his hands,
Eternity cannot erase." Forgotten! No, beloved, not even you that cannot tell where to look for your next meal; who have not perhaps a loaf in your cupboard, nor a halfpenny in your pocket towards buying one ; with perhaps a wife, and hungry, half-naked children, crying to you for bread; and you driven to your wits' end—with darkness in your soul, the devil setting in like a flood, and telling you that these are so many proofs of God's anger—that his hand is gone out against you, and you are ready to destroy yourself. The Lord enable you to tell him it is false, and may his dear Majesty indulge you with just sufficient strength and courage to fall before him with your little family, or if your heart is too full to speak before them, go away to your closet or your outhouse, and groan out your petitions before the Lord-he will hear. Tell him your state, repeat it all before him; tell the condition of your family, and tell him, too, that though you have not faith to trust him for your supply, that yet you know “his hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor is his ear heavy that it cannot hear;" tell it all out, poor soul, your sin, guilt, poverty, and wretchedness. The Lord preserve you from keeping anything back, tell out in words the very secrets of your heart; and watch-see if his glorious hand does not go forth on your behalf. Already, perhaps, the messenger of relief is on his way; and you, that have had the sentence of death in yourself, that you should not trust in yourself, shall find it at once your highest privilege, as well as your only relief, simply to look to, rest upon, and trust in God which raiseth the dead.
Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe
thee with change of raiment.—Zech. iii. 4. In this vision of the prophet is shown the manner of the justification of a sinner in the sight of God. Take the preceding verses in connexion with the above, and then it will be more fully explained. “And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, the Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire ? Now Joshua was clothed in filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment."
We have here exhibited to our view the state of a sinner when the Holy Spirit has been exercising his blessed influence upon him—viz, by convincing him of his undone, lost, and miserable state by nature (and which, be it remembered, is always his first work on every elect“ brand plucked from the fire"), to show him that he is clad in filthy garments, the works of the flesh. See a long black catalogue of them from the lips of Him who is truth itself, in Mark, vii. 21, 22.
When the work of the Spirit is thus in exercise, the sinner is brought as it were, in this filthy condition, in the presence of the Majesty of heaven- the Infinite Jehovah ! But, if we attentively observe, it is said, Joshua was seen standing before the angel of the Lord; by this it is very clearly pointed out, that in his present condition, he could not approach the Most High--the angel was between. A beautiful representation, designed to show that there can be no access to God the Father, but through the mediation of the Saviour (the “ Angel of the Covenant." as he is elsewhere styled); for, though it is written, “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” yet those who have not the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to them (for if they have, then are they holy in the sight of God the Father) cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. But there is another party present, it appears, and that no less than Satan, the great enemy of God's chosen elect people, and even in the presence of the Angel of the Covenant too. Such power seems permitted to him! He is said to be “standing at his right hand to resist him." He is elsewhere styled the “ accuser of the brethren." This shows also that it is the brethren (mark the term) only of whom he is said to be the accuser. It is only those of that family of which Christ is emphatically called by the apostle “ our Elder Brother," that he accuses in the Court of Conscience, where I take it for granted, this wonderful display of “free and sovereign grace and mercy” is made manifest to God's beloved people here below. There will be none of this to do at the last
day; it was all settled virtually “ before the foundation of the world" (Eph. i. 4.) in the grand scheme of redemption by Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and actually, when it was ratified and sealed with the precious blood of our Immanuel on Calvary, when he uttered that victorious sentence, It is finished. It is evident that Joshua (like every other convinced sinner) when brought to see himself in the glass of God's holy law, had “nothing to say for himself” in extenuation of his filthy state. No good works to bring in his hand, and say “I have done my part, and now I request thee, O Angel of the Covenant, to do thine, to make up what is deficient" (as is the advice of many a blind guide of the present day). O no! nothing but his filthiness to stand in-a filthy creature, clad in filthy garments !- what a solemn humiliating reflection! and yet, just so must we be led to see ourselves in our own eyes too, before we can receive the benefits Joshua afterwards had. Some may say, how can a person be in such a filthy condition, and not know it? It may be said to such inquirers that man, in his unregenerate state, is dead to spiritual things; therefore, till the blessed Spirit gives spiritual life, he cannot know it. “For to be carnally minded (unregenerate) is death; but to be spiritually minded (regenerate) is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God,” &c. (Rom. viii, 6– 9.) Do we not also read that this is the state of all men by nature ? David, the man after God's own heart, says, “ he was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did his mother conceive him." Yet it is well to bear in mind that all men do not know it. As it is the Holy Spirit only, who makes this known to the child of God—for it is hidden from the children of the devil, though they may seem to be wise and prudent, both in their own eyes and those of others (Luke, x. 21); it must be one of God's gifts, ay, and one of his especial ones too-and as an Omnipotent Sovereign, he bestows his gifts of grace only on whom he pleases; and blessed, yea eternally blessed, will be the happy recipients ! “ And the Lord said unto Satan, the Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee.” Here you perceive Jehovah the Father takes the matter in hand, jointly with the Son and the Holy Spirit; so sweetly do the attributes of the adorable Trinity in Unity harmonize in the sinner's justification. He rebukes the grand adversary the devil or Satan, the accuser or resister ; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem (his church, his chosen elect people are compared to a city, a holy nation, and the New Jerusalem); and then comes the question which Satan could not reply to, “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire ?” Every one of God's people is as a brand thus plucked. Had they been left to themselves and their own free-will in this matter, they must all have sunk into perdition; but adored be that sovereign grace that fixed upon the persons of the elect in covenant love. Except the Lord had reserved to Himself a seed, we should have been like unto Sodom and Gomorrah. Still there are not wanting some, who, in this boasted day of knowledge, deny the Almighty's personal choice of his people, but that he is willing that all should come; a very fine compliment this to Infinite Wisdom, to choose a people and not to know whom