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they thought they prayed and seemed to pray; whilst others pray very powerfully who believe they cannot pray at all. But if ye abide in me, says the Savior, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.' (John xv.
Jacob understood all this. He perceived that he had the Son of God in his power, and could request as great a blessing of him as he wished. Hence he declares that he will not let him go unless he bless him.
But what is the meaning of blessing ?
It means, amongst men, wishing them every good, particularly of a spiritual kind, from God through Christ, in a praying and believing frame. The blessings which Isaac, and afterwards Jacob, pronounced upon his sons, were prophetic announcements, and therefore of a very peculiar kind. The first-mentioned description of blessing is pleasing and salutary.
Pleasing are the good wishes of one towards another, when springing from a loving heart, which is turned towards God through Christ ; for they are proofs and signs of love, and consequently expressions of the image of God. They are therefore beautiful and sacred, and only true Christians know how to bestow them—and they do so too. How many salutations does the New Testament contain! The sixteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans consists almost entirely of them; and saļuting or greeting means nothing more than affectionately blessing, and consists not in the sound of words, but in the emotion of the heart. It is an exercise becoming Christians; for they are priests, whose province it is to bless. Hence Paul took plea
sure also in mentioning the salutations of others, which he by no means looked upon as inconsiderable trifles. St. John likewise does not fail to communicate the salutations of pious children, with which he had been charged, as his second Epistle proves. But he looks upon such salutations very earnestly and closely, when, in the same Epistle, he enjoins that those who do not bring with them the doctrine of Christ—the doctrine of the Father and the Son shall not be received into the house, nor even be wished God speed; for John possessed as much holiness as love, respecting which we must not imagine that it consents to every thing, although it doth not behave itself unseemly. God himself is a sea of love; and yet his anger burns, his lips are full of fury, and his tongue a consuming fire. For even as love attracts that to it which is like itself; so also it violently rejects that which is unlike. Hence Jesus also, on the day of final judgment, will say,
Depart from me, ye evil doers; I never knew you.' Even as he also said to Satan, ? Get thee behind me..
The salutation or blessing of real Christians is likewise something salutary and powerful, when it is bestowed as it ought, with a believing elevation of the heart to God through Christ. We believe in the communion of saints. It consists not merely in that sincere and heart-felt love which so infallibly prevails amongst real Christians, that John adduces it as a characteristic of having passed from death unto life; and adds, · He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.' It consists not merely in contributing to their sup with our outward substance, and ministering to them
with our spiritual gifts, such as instruction, encouragement, and consolation ; but we have also reason to believe that our labor is not in vain in the Lord, when you bless me in spirit, and I, in return, bless you, and when we mutually supplicate for each other grace and salvation from God. For the Lord fulfils the desire of them that fear him. Nay, it is even a reciprocal duty:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, it is said in Psalm cxxii.-an expression synonymous with wishing prosperity to it. They shall prosper that love thee.'
We bless you in the name of the Lord,' is the conclusion of Psalm cxxix. And Paul says, Pray for one another; and also requests the intercessions of the church on his own behalf. Let us also mutually exercise this, that the body of Christ may be edified. Our blessing, however, is powerless in itself, and is only effectual when our hearts are incited to it by the Lord, and accord with His will.
Jacob desires to be blest by the Lord himself; and the blessing of the Lord does not consist in mere words, but in the real communication of grace and gifts. The Lord left this world whilst lifting up his hands in the act of blessing ; but we do not read that he uttered any thing on the occasion. He imparted real life to his disciples ; which enabled them to return to Jerusalem without the visible presence of Jesus—not with sorrow,
but with joy. Every thing, in the kingdom of God, has reference to that which is real and substantial. The world, on the contrary, is a kingdom of falsehood. It promises pleasure and delight, and even rest; but it does not
keep its word. What it gives is shadow, which may for a season deceive, so that the mistaken individual himself imagines that he is wonderfully well satisfied. But before he is aware, the delusive prospect fades from his view, and he finds himself enveloped in darkness. The world deprives him again of all the dignities, pleasures, property, and happiness it had afforded him, in order to bestow them upon others. It pays no attention to his ardent desire for the further possession and enjoyment of them, nor to his great unwillingness to part with them. Inexorable death deprives him of every thing; reduces him to dust; and hurries him, naked and bare, into another world, where he meets with none of the objects which had been lent him for a time; where the man in authority is no longer respected, and where the rich man no longer possesses anything; because nothing avails then, but the new creature, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, which he does not possess; and in faith which worketh by love, of which he is destitute. Poor deceived mortal!
Thus the world is a kingdom of lies, and we ourselves are also full of deceit, which misleads the understanding as well as the desire to seek happiness in vanity. Hence the individual must be born again ; from being carnal, must become spiritual ; from being earthly, must become heavenly; and from being an unbeliever, must become a believer; and thus enter into the kingdom of God, which consists solely of truth and reality. When in the latter, anything is termed good or evil, it is really so, and will manifest itself to be so. The things are
really as it describes them. When it says, 'Seek that! it is really worth while. When it says, set not your affections upon that particular object;' it is not worth the while striving for it: In short, it always advises us for the best. Its promises also are true and sure. When it says,
6. The blood of Christ cleanses the conscience from all sin, and renders us happy,” it proves itself to be so in our minds; even as many thousands, in every age, have found it confirmed in their own experience. If it tells us, “The Lord careth for you,” it proves
that it is the case in all who receive the saying. Its joys are real and substantial; and when once it will appear what we shall be, all our expectations will be exceeded. In short,
" Who seeks this world, a burthen finds,
On earth or heaven, but God alone." With all its wisdom, the world is nothing but deceit, when it presumes to put in its word upon spiritual things, because it knows nothing of Christ. But upon him who enters into the kingdom of God the true and marvellous light arises, and he sees what was otherwise hidden from his eyes. When Jesus blesses, he actually imparts all things that pertain to life and godliness.' What is it, therefore, that we call blessing ? It is the