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with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness ” (2 Peter, iii. 16, 17).
“A faithful witness will not lie" (Prov. xiv. 5), and “a true witness delivereth souls” (Prov. xiv. 25). And are not the Three which bear record or witness in heaven, which Three are One, faithful and true ? “It is written” are words of great importance ; for the record or testimony which God hath given is infallibly true. It is so perfect that no man is to add unto it: no, in nowise ; for if one of the elect of mankind were actually guilty of it, we are assured by the “revelation of God,” that God would add unto him the plagues that are written in the same record, or take away his part out of the book of life, or from the tree of life. “It is written,' we repeat, are words of great importance; even the testimony of witnesses is not allowed by upright judges to be perverted either by misinterpretation, or by adding to it, or by taking from it. And if the testimony of men be so received among men, surely the testimony of God is greater ; for it is written, “Every word of God is pure ; he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him : add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Prov. xxx. 5, 6).
A false witness will utter lies (Prov. xiv. 5); a deceitful witness speaketh lies (Prov. xiv. 25); and an ungodly witness scorneth judgment (Prov. xix. 28). But “judgments are prepared for scorners” (Prov. xix. 29); “for they that receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, even for this same cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie ; that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. ii. 10–12). And as there are false witnesses who utter lies, either ignorantly, or by adding to or taking from the word of God (Mark, vii. 13); so there are deceitful witnesses, who pervert or wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet. iii. 16).
The words It is written, are spoken by the Lord of glory, with reference to the Holy Scriptures, no less than three times when he was tempted by the devil ; and they are so used by our Lord (see Matt. iv. 4, 7, 10) in proof that the Holy Scriptures are incontrovertibly true : and therefore as he thus silenced the devil, so we ought to regard the words It is written, where they occur in the Holy Scriptures, as introductory to some important truth which false or deceitful witnesses may or will deny or pervert, or make void. For instance, “ It is written the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam a quickening spirit.” Here a revealed distinction is declared between Adam and Christ the Son of God; because the saints are predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son of God (Rom. viii. 29), the image of a quickening spirit. For as they have borne the image of the first Adam, a living soul, which is called the image of the earthy ; so they are to bear the image of the last Adam, a quickening spirit, which is called the image of the heavenly (1 Cor. xv. 48, 49)! How thankful we ought to be to the Holy Spirit for the revelation of the glorious spiritual image which the saints are predestinated to bear ; and also for the words It is written, to draw our attention to an incontrovertible truth,
which so many false and deceitful witnesses do endeavour to make void. But these false and deceitful witnesses do not only lie unto men, for they make God a liar, because they believe not the record God gave of his Son (1 John, v. 10).
(To be concluded in our next.)
SUBSTANCE OF A SERMON ON HEB. XII. 1, 2.
Preached Sept. 13, 1840.
BY THE REV. G. STRATTON. Let us run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus. Various are the states, innumerable are the circumstances in which the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty are placed in this present evil world : but, dear friends, whatever be your state or mine, whatever be your peculiar circumstances or mine; however these may correspond with each other or vary, both, with all their minutest accompaniments, were ordained and arranged by infinite wisdom and almighty love, ere the foundations of the world, in the sacred councils of eternity; and He who hath appointed all and each declares, “My counsel shall stand, I will do all my pleasure" (Is. xlvi. 10). And we may depend on these being such as shall best work together for our good, and best display the glory of our God. And whenever our feet, brethren, shall stand within the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, and we look back on all the way by which the Lord our God hath led us so many years, to prove us and try us, and to show us what has been in our hearts-not only in our journey and wanderings through the wilderness, but after we enter the kingdom-in our intercourse and contests with the many hosts of Canaanites, who come forth against us till we reach the eternal city itself; where no longer seeing as through a glass darkly, but as face to face; no longer knowing in part, and speaking in part, but knowing as we are known, without one intervening cloud to obscure our spiritual vision ; and lost in wonder, love, and praise, we shall adore the wisdom, the prudence, and the love in which one covenant Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, hath abounded towards us, in all the special arrangements of the race now set before us. Thinkest thou, dear brethren, that any other process, that one pang less than he endured in that agony, would have sufficed to subdue the dying thief and cause him to cry out to Him whom he had just before reviled and despised, “ Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom ?" Oh no! Our God doth not of mere wilfulness afflict the children of men ; there are mighty purposes to be accomplished by all his ways; and every chastisement inflicted upon his children, though for the present not joyous but grievous, yet afterwards yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby: and oftentimes the Lord is constrained to lead hoine his children to glory through very painful and humiliating processes, and sometimes justly in permitting them to receive from man "the due reward of their deeds" (Luke, xxiii. 41). Well therefore may the Christian sing, however tedious or painful the race set before him, “ Though my house be not so (as I could arrange) with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered
in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation, and all my desire" (2 Sun. xxiii. 5). In the general features there is a strict similarity in the experience of all Christians, wheresoever and whensoever they exist : all are alike taught of God, made truly sensible of sin, and of their lost and ruined state by nature and practice; of their proneness to evil, and indisposition and inability to good; and all are alike led to see their need, through the riches of divine and sovereign grace, of the atoning blood, the purifying righteousness, and the regenerating Spirit of the dear Redeemer; and all are, sooner or later, made to taste that the Lord is gracious. Jesus consequently becomes unspeakably precious to them, and for him all things are counted but as dung and dross ; and when completely emptied of sin, and filled with the fulness of God, the race set before them is accomplished, and they are fitted for their station in eternity; hewn out of the rock of nature, digged out of the hole of the pit of sin into which they have plunged themselves. (Is. li. 1); hammered, carved, chiselled, rubbed, polished, and, by divine power, made lively stones, fit to be built in a spiritual house, acceptable to God, on the living, chief corner, tried foundation stone Christ Jesus; “ disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious.” But in order to bring'about this happy consummation—I mean emptying us of self, that we may be filled with the fulness of God, separating us from nature that we may be partakers of grace—the particular existence of the Lord's dear people varies exceedingly, and what proves and manifests real faith and a total captivity to Christ in one child of God, is unknown in the experience of another; or it may be of any other, as for instance, selecting from the cloud of witnesses to faith referred to in the chapter before us, the actual building of the ark by Noah, the offering up of Isaac by Abraham, the refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter by Moses, are things, with all the special feelings and workings consequent upon the fulfilment of their callings, literally unknown in the experience of others, besides the individuals themselves. However these events may be made to wear a semblance of spiritual accommodation and application as regards others, there are no two cases of particular experience alike upon record in the whole Bible; and it appears to be consummate folly in Moses, and a chief device in Satan, to endeavour to bring down all experience to some particular standard, and to prescribe certain divine workings and leadings as absolutely necessary to our assurance of salvation. Beloved, this error, like all others, has had its origin in Popery, the mother of harlots and all the abominations in the earth, which sets before her unhappy subjects (truly concerned for their souls but surrounded with gross darkness) some particular saint of the Romish calendar, and demands from the wretched victim a strict conformity in life and experience with the imaginary idol, in order to please and procure the favour of God, and to endure peace and satisfaction of conscience. How similar to the demands of Rome are the demands of methodistical class leaders ! and how greatly does this error obtain among Protestants, through the grievous things which others have prescribed and do prescribe daily, whereby the hearts of the righteous are made sad, hands that hang down are not lifted up, feeble knees are not strengthened, and straight paths are not made for the feet of the children. The incessant study of the lives of modern saints which has almost supplanted the study of the Scriptures, has greatly tended to foster this delusion; the word of God is made void, and a vast field opened for Satan to bring in privily damnable heresies, and cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of; and for covetousness through feigned words, to make merchandise of mankind. Be not then carried away, beloved, unto these idols, even as men would lead you; “I would not have you ignorant concerning spiritual gifts—is it not written, there are diversities of gifts but the same spirit, there are differences of administrations but the same Lord, there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God
that worketh all in all the members of Christ's mystical body. Now the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (Cor. xii. 7). Let us not therefore unchristianise ourselves, or permit ourselves to be unchristianised by others, from “measuring ourselves by ourselves, from coinparing ourselves with ourselves, which is not the part of wise men" (2 Cor. x. 12). “For it is the Spirit of the living God alone which can bear witness with a man's spirit, that he is a child of God” (Rom. viii. 16).
A conformity with the experience of any living fellow-creature, whatever opinion we or others may entertain of him, should form no ground of satisfaction or comfort, as he may eventually be proved a hypocrite or deceiver; and a conformity in experience with any dead fellow-creature, however esteemed and approved, can afford but little solace, as he can neither sympathise nor save. But, however limited our experience may be, however different it may be from the experience of others, if we can recognise the work of the Holy Ghost within, let us profit by this manifestation—"the life is the light of men" (John, i. 4): and let us rest assured of whose we are, and whom we serve; for He who cannot lie hath declared, “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, whereby we cry, Abba Father:" and though clouds come oft between; though we change from day to day, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself, with him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning; and the incorruptible seed liveth and abideth for ever, when once it has been sown. As an old writer well observes, the soul once born of God is never unborn from that day forward. Regeneration is a divine act, which, having once passed upon the soul, stands good for ever, and is physically incapable of reiteration. Hence, though we be unable to answer the demands of Scribes and Pharisees, yet if we can say with one of old, “One thing I do know—viz. whereas I was blind, now I see;” though we see men but as trees walking, yet have we our standing clear; and having made our calling, we have our election sure, and should be fully persuaded that being God's building, and defended by his omnipotence, truth, and everlasting covenant, till our foundation sinks and gives way we can never be removed. “He who hath begun the good work will carry it on until the day of Christ, will never leave or forsake his people, but keep them by the power of God through faith unto salvation;" for he hath said (Is. xliii. 2), “When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee, for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour-I have loved thee, therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” Again Is. xli. 10, “ Fear thou not (thou worm Jacob, whom I have chosen and not cast away), for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee-yea, I will help thee-yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded, they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.” Hence, from a union with Jesus, the believer reaps the benefit of every divine attribute, and is strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, losing himself and his own nothingness in the greatness of almighty perfection; and eventually is more than conqueror, through Him who hath loved him; and though the race of one is comparatively smooth, and that of another through deep and troubled waters; though one struggles through a lengthened course of depressing poverty, and another is embarrassed with his riches; though one is blessed with health and strength of body, and another is sick and weakly, dragging on a miserable or loathsome existence; though one rejoices in a sound mind and knoweth whom he hath believed, and rejoiceth in the light of his Father's countenance, while another is tossed to and fro, and harassed with doubts and fears ; though
one keepeth under his body and hath it in subjection, while another wars incessantly with his lusts; though one sets his forehead like a flint against the world, and fears not the face of man, while another dreadeth daily the fury of the oppressor; though one findeth that the God of peace hath bruised Satan under his feet, and made him acquainted with his depths, while another wrestles not with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places; yet all Israel shall be saved, and saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation. “ Nothing shall be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus ; neither tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril, or sword; neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature. Amen." Therefore, dear brethren, in order that we may run with patience the race that is set before us, instead of looking to any poor worm like ourselves, whether it be a dead Popish saint, or a dead or living Protestant idol ; let us keep looking to Jesus—“to him who is mighty to save, to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him"-to him who can “ be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who was made in all things like unto the brethren, tempted in all points like as we are, and who learnt obedience by the things which he suffered, and being thus made perfect, became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Let us therefore look unto him who can both sympathise and save, to him who is the Finisher as well as the Author of salvation; to whose blessed image the Father hath predestinated all his children to be conformed—the first-born among many brethren, the brightness of his own glory, the express image of his person : for as a child for the most part reflects the image of its parent's countenance-if the parent smiles, the child smiles, if the parent's brow be overcast, the infant is sorrowful-so, in proportion as we keep looking to Jesus, we shall reflect his image, partake of his likeness, and share his joy who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God, having resisted unto blood, striving against sin; who set the Lord always before his face, therefore he was on his right hand that he should not be moved ; therefore did his heart rejoice, and his tongue was glad, his flesh also rested in hope. The ways of life were made known unto him, and he was full of joy with his Father's countenance ; and so, beloved, shall we be by looking to Jesus, and so shall we sing as the church of old, “beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord.” The true secret of the low desponding state of mind which we are all so prone to, is a hankering after self-righteousness, a desire to find in ourselves unchangeable goodness, the evil heart of unbelief departing from the living God unsatisfied with his goodness, and exclaiming with the multitude of old, “Our souls are dried away, and there is nothing at all beside this manna before our eyes” (Numb. xi. 6)-ever occupied with what we are, and what we are not, instead of with Christ and what he is; living upon self, kindling a fire, compassing ourselves about with sparks, walking in the light of the fire and in the sparks which we have kindled, and having at the Lord's hand in the end to lie down in sorrow : for Jesus himself hath declared, “ Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you ;” and again, “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.”
Thus, when Jesus is the life of the soul-when the Sun of Righteousness shines in—then, like the sun in nature, which causes all minor luminaries to retire, all other objects will cease to occupy our attention, and his bright