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flesh. , When there is no possibility of correcting one's faults, what is to be done? The only resource is to cast oneself on the grace of God. When the flesh is too strong, God often permits us to fall, because we are not in that precious state of dependence which would pre
Jacob had too deeply offended Esau not to dread his anger; yet God did not leave him in his brother's hand, but gave him enough faith to carry him through the difficulty.
God wrestled with Jacob, and the latter prevailed; but he must have felt within his heart what it is to have had to do with evil. God would not allow him to be given over to the hatred of Esau; and at the end of his course Jacob could say (Gen. xlviii. 15, 16), 6 The God which fed me all my life long unto this day; the Angel which redeemed me from all evil," etc.
When God tries the heart in this way, He sometimes leaves it in Satan's hands; but He never leaves the consciences of His children in the enemy's hands. Judas' conscience was in Satan's hands, and, therefore, he fell into despair. Peter's heart was in his hands for a time, but his conscience never. Therefore, instead of despairing, like Judas, the love of Jesus, expressed in a look, had power
to touch his heart. Directly grace acts in the heart, it gives the consciousness of sin; but, at the same time, the love of Christ reaches the conscience, deepening the consciousness of sin; but if this is deep, it is because the consciousness of the love of Christ is also deep.
Perfect as was the pardon of Peter, he could never forget his sin. Not only was he fully forgiven, but his conscience was in the Lord's hand when the Holy Ghost revealed the fulness of the heart of Jesus to him. His conscience had been so fully purified, that he could accuse the Jews of the very sin he had himself committed under the most solemn circumstances.
“ Ye denied the Holy One and the Just,” were his words. The blood of Christ had fully cleansed his conscience; but if the question of his strength in the flesh was raised, all he had to say of himself was, I have denied the Lord; and, were it not for His pure grace, I could not open my mouth.
Jesus never reproached Peter with his sin in those conversations He had with him. There is never the question, Why hast thou denied me? No; He does not once remind him of his failure: on the contrary, He acts according to that expression of love of the Holy Spirit, “ I will remember their sins no more.' Jesus had forgotten all. But there was one thing He had to show Peter; it was the root of the sin, the point where he had failed. Satan's temptation, with his own want of love, had been the cause of his fall, and had destroyed his confidence; but now, his conscience being touched, it was needful that his spiritual intelligence should be formed. Peter had boasted of more love to Jesus than the rest; and Peter had failed more than all.
Then Jesus said to him, “ Lovest thou me more than these ?" Where is now Peter's self-confidence? Jesus repeats three times, “ Lovest thou me?" but He does not remind him of his history. Peter's answer is, “ Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." He appeals to Jesus, and to His divine knowledge; “ Thou knowest that I love thee." This is what Jesus did for Peter, and that after his fall.
Jesus had foretold his failure; and here He asked him, " Lovest thou me more than these?" Peter can say nothing, save that he has learned his weakness, and that he has loved Jesus less than the other disciples. The relationship between Jesus and Peter is all of grace; he had no resource except to confide in Jesus, and now he could be a witness for him; he had felt the power of a look of Jesus.
Peter seems to say, I confide in thee, thou knowest how I have denied thee; do with me what seemeth thee good. Then we see Jesus sustaining His disciple's heart, lest Satan should rob Him of his confidence, and saying, " When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” What enabled him to strengthen his brethren? His denial had so taught him what the flesh was, that he would no longer bind himself to anything; he knew that he had nothing to do save to trust God. Whatever his own incapacity to resist Satan, he could appeal to the grace of Him who knows all things. The knowledge that he could confide in Jesus, was that which made him strong. It was after reminding Peter of the utter incapacity of the flesh, that the Lord confided His sheep to him—" Feed my lambs”-and it was not till then that he could strengthen his brethren.
The flesh has a certain confidence in the flesh, and this is often the folly into which we fall. It is then necessary for us to learn ourselves by conflict with Satan; every Christian has to learn what he is through the circumstances in which he is placed. God leaves us there to be sifted by Satan, that we may learn our own hearts. Had we enough humility and faithfulness to say, “ I can do nothing without thee,” God would not leave us to this sad experience of our infirmity. When we are really weak, God never leaves us; but, when unconscious of our infirmities, we have to learn them by experience.
If a Christian does not walk under a constant sense of his infirmity, God leaves him in the presence of Satan, that he may there be taught it. It is then also that he commits faults which are often irreparable; and it is this which is the most sorrowful part of all.
Jacob halted all his life. Why was this? It was because he had halted, morally, during one-and-twenty years. He wrestled mightily, yet he must have been conscious what a feeble creature he was in the flesh, although God did not leave him to struggle with Esau.
We need never be surprised if the Lord leaves us in difficulty; it is because there is something in us to be broken down, and which we need to be made sensible of; but grace is always behind all this. Christ is all grace, and if He sometimes appears to leave us to learn our weakness, still He is grace, perfect grace, towards us.
It was not when Peter turned his eyes towards the Lord that Jesus showed Himself to him; as to communion, indeed, this is true, but it was before his fall that Jesus had said, “ I have prayed for thee," for it is always grace which anticipates us.
Jesus sees what Satan desires, and leaves us to that desire, but He takes care that we should be kept. It was not when Peter looked at Jesus, but when Jesus looked on Peter, that the latter wept bitterly. The love of Christ always precedes his own; it accompanies us, precedes us in our difficulties, and carries us through all obstacles. While it leaves us in Satan's hands, that we may learn experimentally what we are, it is always near to us, and knows how to guard us from the wiles of the enemy. Here we see the perfect goodness and grace of the one who loves us, not only when our hearts are turned towards him, but who adapts himself to every fault in our characters, that we may be fully and completely blessed according to the counsels of God.
All this should teach us to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us in due season. When I feel cast down and grieved in thinking of my. self after a fall, I ought not then forth with to seek comfort, however natural that may be: No; it is not that which I am to seek, but rather, and first of all, the Christ who is there; I have to learn the lesson which God has traced for me.
If, in the midst of painful circumstances, you say that you cannot understand the teaching, God knows what it is, and He leaves you there to be sifted, in order to bring you by this means to a deeper knowledge of Him and yourself; He wishes to show you all He has Himself seen in you, so that we ought not to shrink from this sifting, but rather to seek to receive the precious teaching which the Lord offers us through it; and thus we shall obtain a much deeper knowledge of what He is for us.
We must learn to yield ourselves to His mighty hand, till he exalts us. Máy God give us to know Him alone! If we had only to learn what we are, we should be cast down, and sink into despondency; but His object in giving us a knowledge of ourselves and of His grace, is to give us an expected end.
One can say then, " Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
PARABLES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
The sower (Matt. xiii. 3), is the result of the word sown in the heart, with the forms of evil which hinder its bringing forth fruit.
The tares (Matt. xiii. 24), gives us the history of the kingdom of heaven during the absence of the Son of Man till his return the harvest included.
Or, the result of the sowing by the Son of Man in the world, at the close of man's carelessness, who allowed Satan also to sow. There is a better circumstance to remark in the
parable of the seed in Mark: they immediately receive it with gladness; but this immediately is not for the conscience.
The mustard-seed (Matt. xiii. 31) is the outside appearance of
power taken by Christendom. The leaven (Matt. xii. 33), dissemination, in the limits permitted by the counsels of God, of an external doctrine.
These three last parables were spoken before the world.
The hidden treasure (Matt. xiii. 44).
The three parables which follow give thoughts of Christ communicated to his disciples.
The hidden treasure.— Christ buys the world, which in itself is worth nought, in order to have the treasure which God had hidden, and which He saw there.
The pearl of great price (Matt. xiii. 45). — The Spirit of Christ apprehends the moral beauty which God has set in the Church, and will have it at any price.
The net (Matt. xiii. 47). — The result of the gospel in gathering things of every kind, good and bad, which are separated, and those which are good are put into vessels.
In the parables of the “ tares" and the “net," it is the angels who separate the good from the bad, in giving