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the kingdom of heaven ";" and by the opening of their eyes they are brought out of darkness into marvellous light.")
2. He makes them to know their own personal interest in it
[We are struck with the confidence with which the inspired writers speak, in reference to their own state and the state of their brethren in the faith : “ Now are we the sons of God:"
we know that we have passed from death unto life :" " we know that God abideth in us, by the Spirit which he has given us :” “ we know that we are of God; and the whole world lieth in wickednesso." Now this assurance is no other than what our blessed Lord promised to his believing people: “ In that day ye shall know that the Father is in me, and I in you,
and you in me.” That the believer may, by fair and rational deduction, ascertain much of his state before God, there can be no doubt: but that internal manifestations are, in many cases, vouchsafed to the soul, is also certain : for our Lord has promised, that “ he will manifest himself unto us, as he does not unto the world :” and this promise he has explained, by saying, that “ he and his Father will love us, and come unto us, and make their abode with usq.”. Accordingly we find, that to many is given “ the Holy Spirit,” us a witness, to "! bear witness with their spirit that they are the children of God,” and, as “a Spirit of adoption, enabling them, with holy confidence, to cry, Abba, Father?.” They have prayed to him, like the Psalmist, “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvations: and God has answered them in the desire of their hearts, and enabled them to say, in reference to him, “O God, thou art my God";" and, in reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, “ My Beloved is mine, and I am his u.”]
3. He shews them that every occurrence, of whatever kind, is in some way or other working for the ultimate salvation of their souls
[They may not always see this at first: but, when more fully instructed, they learn to trust in God, assured, that though" clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the basis of his throne." See a remarkable instance of this in the Apostle Paul. He was shut up for two full years in prison, and was thus deprived of exercising his apostolic office in his accustomed way. Such an event as this would be contemplated, by the Church at large, as a subject of unmixed sorrow: but St. Paul himself had far different views of it: he said, “ I know that this shall turn to my salvation:" nor was he less confident that good would accrue from it, also, to the Church of God: yea, he saw, even whilst in bonds, the beneficial results of his imprisonment;
n Mark iv. 11.
• 1 John iii. 2, 14, 24. and v. 19.
u Cant. ii. 16.
and declared, that, instead of obstructing the progress of the Gospel
, it had “tended rather to the furtherance of the Gospel,” since many had been emboldened by it to preach the word with greater courage and fidelity*. Thus does God compose the minds of all his faithful people. They may indeed, for a season, be ready to complain with Jacob, “ All these things are against me; but he whispers in their ears, that “ All things are working together for their goody;" and that, eventually, they shall have as much reason to bless him for the darkest dispensations as for those which were more gratifying to flesh and blood.]
Passing by many other secrets, I will proceed to set before you, II. That more particular view of his covenant which
is the crown and summit of them allFrom all eternity did God enter into covenant with his Son; as it is said, “ The counsel of peace was between them both?" And to this covenant God leads the minds of his people, 1. As the source of all their blessings
[Certain it is, that, whatever grace has been bestowed upon us, it has been conferred, “not on account of any
works of righteousness which we have done, but according to God's purpose
grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world begana." But this is a great secret; a secret utterly unknown to the world at large: and one which not all, even of righteous persons, are able to receive. There is, in the minds of many, a prejudice against it, as though such an idea would necessarily puff up the mind with pride and conceit: whereas, there is nothing in the world that so much tends to humble and abase the soul as this: for it takes from man all ground of self-preference, and leads him to give all the honour of his salvation to God alone. Believer, how wonderful is the thought, that God, from all eternity, set his heart on thee; ordained thee to be born in a country where the light of Revelation shone, and where the means and opportunities of conversion should be afforded thee! How wonderful, too, that this grace, which so many receive in vain, should be made effectual for thee; and that, by the operation of God's mighty power on thy soul, thou shouldst be “ turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God!” Art thou not amazed, that thou shouldst be“ taken, when so many are left;" and that the Saviour, who to so many millions is only“ a stumbling-block and rock of offence, should be to thee a sanctuary," where thou hast found rest to thy soul? Truly, it is a great matter if God has taught thee, that “thou hast not chosen him, but he thee b;” that thou hast not loved him, or apprehended him, but hast been loved and apprehended by himo; that “ He hath loved thee with an everlasting love ; and therefore with loving-kindness hath he drawn theed!" Does not the thought of this overwhelm thy soul with gratitude? and art thou not altogether lost in wonder, love, and praise ?)
* Phil. i. 12-14, 19. 2 Zech. vi. 13.
y Rom. viii. 28. a 2 Tim. i. 9.
2. As the security for the everlasting continuance of them
[This is another part of the same stupendous mystery: and blessed, indeed, are the ears that have heard this secret from the Lord, and the eyes that can discern the truth of it! Believer, when God entered into covenant with his Son, he left it not uncertain whether any benefit should accrue from his mediation, but engaged, that “ when he should make his soul an offering for sin, he should see a seed who should prolong their days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hand.” Then he gave thee to his Son, that in thee " he might see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied." Thou wast then ordained to be a jewel in his crown: and the Father engaged, when he put thee into the hands of his Son, that none should ever pluck thee from theme." Times without number does the Lord Jesus speak of his people in this light, as "given him from eternity by the Father." and " of those who were so given him, he will lose none." What a consolation is this to thee, under all thy difficulties and all thy conflicts, to know that “God hath made with thee an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sureh!" God himself tells us, that “he confirmed his covenant with an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before usi.” Rejoice, then, in this thought. Bless God for making it known to thee. See how safe thou art in the hands of an unchanging God. See to what it is owing that thou hast not been consumed alreadyk; and what is thy security, against all the wiles
b John xv. 16. c1 John iv, 10. Gal. iv. 9. Phil. iii. 12. d Jer. xxxi. 3. e John X. 28, 29. f John xvii. 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24.
& John xvii. 12. h 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. i Heb. vi. 17, 18. k Mal. iii. 6.
of Satan, and all the infirmities of flesh and blood. then, in whom thou hast believed ; and that, as he is able to keep that which thou hast committed to him!,” so “ he will preserve thee unto his heavenly kingdomm."] TO IMPROVE this subject, I would further say, 1. Cultivate increasing friendship with God
[It is not to all, but to his friends only, that God imparts these heart-reviving secrets, even to them who truly “fear him.” Nor is it amidst the noise and bustle of the world that he will communicate them, but in seasons of retirement, and in the stillness of the night. It is by a still small voice that he imparts them to the soul.
O let your fellowship with him be sweet and frequent! Go to him on all occasions: consult him in every emergency: listen to his voice, whether he speak by the written word, or by his Holy Spirit. Say to him at all times, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. So “ will he draw nigh to you, when you draw nigh to him:” and when you spread before him your inmost wants," he will guide you by his counsel :" he will “lead you into all truth ;" he will make known to you" the deep things of God";" and by communications of every kind will “perfect that which concerneth you°;" enabling you to "comprehend, in a measure, what none can fully comprehend, the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ, and thereby filling you with all the fulness of God P."]
2. Make a due improvement of the secrets he has already imparted to you
[Treasure them up in your minds, for your support and comfort under all the trials of life. They will prove a healing balm to every wound; and, like an anchor of the soul, they will keep you steadfast amidst all the storms that you may encounter in this tempestuous worldo.
But, keep them not altogether in your own bosoms. God may make use of you for the imparting of them to others, and for the sustaining and strengthening of your weaker brethren. Yet, care is necessary, that you do not, by an indiscreet disclosure of them to those whose minds are not prepared to receive them, lay a stumbling-block before the very persons whom you wish to edify. Our Lord cautions us “not to cast our pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend us?.” We must administer “milk to babes, and strong meat to those only who are able
1 2 Tim. i. 12.
Ps. cxxxviii. 8.
m 2 Tim. iv. 18.
n 1 Cor. ii. 10. 9 Heb. vi. 19.
to digest its." But to those who have ears to hear, it is well to speak of these things, as our Lord and his Apostles conversed of them in the way to Emmaus. Then will your hearts often burn within you; and your own souls, as well as those of your Brethren, be edified in faith and love.]
8 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2. Heb. v. 12–14.
THE WORSHIP OF GOD DELIGHTFUL.
Ps. xxvi. 8. Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house,
and the place where thine honour dwelleth. BETWEEN the people of God and the men of this world there is a much broader line of distinction than is generally imagined. In the performance of outward duties there may be but little difference : but in their motives and principles they are as far asunder as heaven and earth, yea, I had almost said, as heaven and hell. They have altogether a different taste ; the one affecting heavenly things as their most delightful occupation; whilst the other follow them rather by constraint, and feel themselves most in their element when they are engaged in worldly company and in carnal pursuits. The faithful servant of God enjoys the testimony of his own conscience, that he has no real delight in any thing but in doing God's will, and in enjoying his presence. David, in this respect, may serve as a glass, wherein every real saint may discern his own image. He could appeal to God that he had found no pleasure in worldly company and worldly pursuits; but that his delight had been altogether in communion with his God, and in the ordinances of his grace".
In order to make a suitable improvement of the assertion before us, I will shew, I. The reasons which he had for so loving the house
of GodTo give a full account of them would be impossible. It may suffice to specify a few of those which operated with greater force upon his mind.