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Title: Multiplied Blessings - Eighteen Short Readings
Author: Hoare, Edward N., 1842-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1907 Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge
edition by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org



                           MULTIPLIED BLESSINGS
                        _EIGHTEEN SHORT READINGS_


                                * * * * *

                               BY THE LATE
                             REV. CANON HOARE
                  VICAR OF HOLY TRINITY, TUNBRIDGE WELLS

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

           PUBLISHED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE TRACT COMMITTEE

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                                  LONDON
                SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE
                       NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, W.C.
                     43, QUEEN VICTORIA STREET, E.C.
                       BRIGHTON: 129, NORTH STREET
                          NEW YORK: E. S. GORHAM
                                   1907



PREFACE


THESE short readings, now published for the first time, are extracts from
the written sermons of the late Rev. E. Hoare, Vicar of Holy Trinity,
Tunbridge Wells from 1853 to 1894, and Hon. Canon of Canterbury.  They
are taken, word for word, from his original MSS., and have been selected
with a view to giving practical help in the Christian life.  Many of them
were written long ago, but the hindrances and difficulties that meet the
Christian continue much the same, and it is hoped that the following
pages may be used of God to bring before the reader the Lord Jesus Christ
as the Saviour, Guide, and Helper.

                                                                  K. A. H.



CONTENTS

                                                       PAGE
MULTIPLIED BLESSINGS                                      5
THE SAVIOUR SEEKING THE SINNER                           12
A DIVINE SALVATION                                       17
FEELINGS                                                 24
A PEACEFUL DEATH-BED                                     28
A PEACEFUL LIFE                                          33
THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT                        38
THE WITNESS—THE LEADER—THE COMMANDER                     43
FAITH AND EFFORT                                         49
THE JOY OF THE LORD                                      54
THE WORK OF THE LORD                                     58
CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE IN THE CONFIRMATION OF FAITH        62
THE COMING OF THE LORD                                   66
“WITH” AND “BY”                                          71
THE STIRRING OF THE SPIRIT                               76
A WILLING SERVICE                                        81
FEAR NOT                                                 86
THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE                               91



MULTIPLIED BLESSINGS


    “Thou art my hiding-place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou
    shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.

    “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:
    I will guide thee with mine eye.”—Ps. xxxii. 7, 8.

WELL, indeed, may the Psalmist say, “Blessed is he whose transgression is
forgiven,” for every blessing flows into the soul as the consequence of
divine forgiveness.  The word in the Hebrew rendered “Blessed” is in the
plural number, to show that there is not one blessing only, but
multiplied blessings and multiplied mercies, all springing from this one
source, the forgiveness of sin.  When David wrote these words he felt the
truth of them.  He spoke of a gift which he had himself experienced.  He
had found mercy, so he proclaimed its richness.  We know how grievously
he fell in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah, and we remember Nathan’s
visit.  It was after that visit that, according to the general belief,
this Psalm was written.  He had struggled with the agonies of unforgiven
sin, till at length the message was delivered to him by the prophet, “The
Lord, also, hath put away thy sin.” {5}  No wonder, then, that he poured
out his heart in this hymn of thanksgiving, commencing with the words,
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

But it is not merely a Psalm of thanksgiving, for according to the title
it was a Maschil, a Psalm giving instruction.  When David was pleading
for mercy in Psalm li., he said that when he had found forgiveness
himself, he would make it known for the good of others, “Then will I
teach transgressors Thy ways.” {6}  So now, having been forgiven, he
wrote this Psalm of instruction for others.

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
These were the words with which David commenced his Psalm, and in these
words he said that to which every forgiven soul will most heartily add,
“Amen.”

What was the peculiar character of that blessedness?  We learn from
verses 3 and 4 the awful misery of sin unrepented and unforgiven.  We
find how David’s tears were dried up by the burning heat of a guilty
conscience, and how the dreadful burden weighed day and night upon his
soul.  Then in the next verse we are taught the secret of the great
transition from misery to peace.  We find how he made up his mind to make
no further efforts to conceal his guilt.  He resolved to confess it
before God, and no longer attempt to hide it from man.  The result was a
complete, assured, and most merciful forgiveness.  “Thou forgavest,” he
said, “the iniquity of my sin.”  He was assured of the gift, but what was
the unspeakable blessedness to which, when forgiven, he was admitted?

This we learn from the words of our text in which we find the peaceful
intercourse of the forgiven soul with God.  It is that peaceful
intercourse which constitutes the real test of forgiveness, Christ died,
the just for the unjust, to bring us to God: so those who are made
partakers of that atoning work are actually brought to God and made what
the Psalmist calls “a people near unto Him.” {7}  So it was in the case
of David.  There was nothing to keep him any longer at a distance, and in
the full peace of complete reconciliation he enjoyed the unspeakable
privilege of communion with God.  The account of this communion is given
us in the verses of our text, in the first of which we have the language
of the forgiven sinner to God, in the second the reply from God Himself.



I.  THE LANGUAGE OF THE FORGIVEN SOUL ADDRESSING GOD.


He that was afar off without any shelter from the rough storm of an
accusing conscience, is now able to look up to the God who has forgiven
him and say, “Thou art my hiding-place.”  He finds his shelter and his
safety in the presence of that very God whose law he had broken.  He does
not say, “Thou hast provided a hiding-place,” but “Thou _art_ my
hiding-place.”  He who had been exposed without protection to the sore
buffetings of his own conscience, confirmed as it was by the just
sentence of God’s holy law, had been so completely restored that he had
found in God Himself a hiding-place.

In that sacred hiding-place he realized two results, safety and praise.
When hidden there he was safe, just as our own life is safe when hidden
with Christ in God, and therefore he could say, “Thou shalt preserve me,”
and when hidden there he would live in the very atmosphere of
thanksgiving, so he said, “Thou shalt compass me about (or surround me)
with songs of deliverance.”  A song of deliverance is a song of praise
from one that has been delivered.  The Song of Moses was a song of
deliverance when he stood on the shores of the Red Sea after he had seen
the hosts of Egypt overwhelmed in the flood. {8a}  David’s was a song of
deliverance when God had brought him up out of the horrible pit and
established his goings, and had put a new song in his mouth. {8b}  The
song of the great multitude before the throne is a song of deliverance,
when, brought out of great tribulation, clothed with white robes and
palms in their hands, they sing, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon
the throne, and unto the Lamb.”  {8c}

Observe the connection between this safety and these songs of
deliverance.  The songs are not merely the consequence of the safety, but
a part of it.  Hidden in the Lord, we are compassed, or surrounded, by
them.  Whichever way we look, whether forward in hope, or backward in
memory, or upwards in trust, there is in every direction something to
call forth the praise, and the spirit of thanksgiving is in itself a
protection against assault.

There is just the same connection between praise and safety in the
description of the restored Zion: “Thou shalt call thy walls Salvation,
and thy gates Praise.” {8d}  Praise is there represented as part of the
defence.  The enemy cannot enter because the gateway is filled by praise.
The song of deliverance is so hearty and so loud that the voice of the
tempter is not heard.  And thus it is that the forgiven man, hidden in
Christ Jesus, praises God, because he has been saved, and confirms his
safety by the very act of praising Him.  Does not this teach us a lesson
as to our own communion with God?  Whatever it is that weighs on the
heart and disturbs the spirit, whatever the storm be that beats upon us,
whether it be care from without or conscience within, whether it be the
pain of trouble or the still greater pain of the sense of sin, the
forgiven man may go straight to Him and say, “I flee unto Thee to hide
me.” {9a}  And if hidden in Him, can anything really hurt us?  Is not His
salvation a sufficient wall?  Shall anything that can really hurt us
enter in by those gates which He has closed with praise?  In holy peace,
then let the songs of deliverance rise before Him.  Let the unspeakable
blessedness of the divine safety call forth the notes of thanksgiving.
If the sweet note of praise was heard by the prisoners from the inner
dungeon at Philippi, {9b} shall it not be heard by the whole church of
God from those who have found a hiding-place in their Lord?



II.  THE LORD’S REPLY TO THE FORGIVEN MAN.


Such, then, was the language of the forgiven man to the God who had
forgiven him.  What reply did he receive?  “I will instruct thee and
teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine
eye.”  You will observe that what is here promised is His own divine
guidance and instruction, and you will see at once how appropriate such a
promise was under the peculiar circumstances of the case.  David had
grievously fallen.  He had been walking, in former times, in God’s way,
but had turned aside in a most awful manner.  We do not know what was the
preparatory process in his mind.  Perhaps he had forgotten his weakness;
perhaps he had grown self-confident and fell.  But we see what God
promised now that he was restored.  He undertook in future to keep him
Himself, by His own instruction and His own guidance.  The Lord Himself
undertook to guide him, and so keep him safe from the danger of another
fall.

There are two points in this promise.  It was _in_ the way, not _about_
the way, that God promised to guide him.  When he was walking in the
narrow way God under took to walk with him there, and to hold him fast in
His own right hand till the journey should be complete, and the rest
reached at the end.  Let us all learn the lesson that God’s teaching is
only found in the path of God’s commandments.  If we choose to walk in
some way of our own choosing, we must not expect the guidance of the
Lord.

Observe also what I may term the delicacy of the promise and the intimacy
of the relationship.  God says, “I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

When David was living in a state of impenitence, the strong hand of God
was upon him day and night.  But now a look is enough.  No force is
needed.  The heart is tender, the ear is open, the eye is fixed on the
Lord Jesus, and the least intimation of His will is sufficient.  The
passage seems to describe the eye of the Lord watching over His children,
and the eyes of His children fixed on the Lord.  When the Lord Jesus
looked on Peter, Peter must have been looking on Him, and one look melted
his heart.  And so when the Lord is guiding us, there is no need of
strong or violent discipline, of the wind, the storm, or the earthquake,
for the still small voice is enough.  What is needed is that we should be
living looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, seeking
to know His will, drinking in His word, watching the guidance of His
providence, applying the principles of Scripture to common life, and so
not waiting till conviction is forced upon us, but, with a tender heart
and a ready mind, seeking hour by hour to do His will.  It is in such an
attitude of mind that we can realize the sacred promise, “I will guide
thee with Mine eye.”

Such, then, was the intercourse of this forgiven man with God.  How
close, how intimate, how sacred, how blessed, the communion!  And how
complete must have been the forgiveness that prepared the way for it.  It
seems almost impossible to believe that this was the same man on whom
God’s hand had been heavy day and night, the same whose bones had waxed
old through his roaring all the day long, now forgiven, now brought into
happy intercourse with God.  Does not the passage teach a wonderful
lesson to every soul that has been mercifully forgiven in Christ Jesus?
When we think of the precious blood of Christ, and how the Lord laid on
Him the iniquity of us all, can we suppose for a moment that the
forgiveness bestowed on us is less complete, or the restoration less
perfect, than that of David?  Since, then, in his case, the insuperable
barrier of his guilt was so completely broken down that he was admitted
to this sacred and intimate fellowship, why should any one of us remain
at a distance?  Why should not we, even we, go before the same Father to
find in Him our hiding-place, and receive from Him the same blessed
assurance, “I will guide thee with Mine eye”?  May He accompany us
through life with that loving guidance and watch over every step we take
till, by His great grace, we are safe from danger.



THE SAVIOUR SEEKING THE SINNER


    “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them,
    doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after
    that which is lost, until he find it?”—ST. LUKE xv. 4.

THERE are many amongst us truly and conscientiously seeking the Lord
whose souls are ill at ease, and whose hearts are far from peace.  They
are feeling after Him, if haply they may find Him; but they are like
blind men groping for the wall, for they have not found Him, and they
have no firm resting-place for their faith.  They have been reading many
passages about seeking the Lord, and have endeavoured to seek Him, but
they are sorely discouraged.

Let us, therefore, change the subject, and instead of considering how
they are to seek the Lord, let us see how the Lord seeks them.  Let us
look at the Divine side of the transaction, and instead of being absorbed
by the subject of the sinner seeking the Saviour, let us look at the
boundless grace of God which is shown by the Saviour seeking the sinner.

It is the great subject of this chapter, which contains three
illustrations of the one subject, and thus forms an illustrated comment
on His words, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was
lost.” {13}  According to those words He came for the lost, and came not
only to save them when they should succeed in finding Him, but to seek
them in order that He may save.  He does not save without seeking, nor
does He seek without saving.  Let us glean some lessons, from the
combination of the three illustrations, as to the loss of the sinner, and
the seeking of the Saviour.



THE LOSS.


In all three cases the recovered one is said to have been lost.  The
sheep was lost.  The coin was lost.  The son was lost.

If we study the illustrations in detail we shall see that there are three
ways described in the chapter in which this loss is brought about.

It is brought about, in the case of the lost sheep, through simple
ignorance and the folly of pursuing each passing object of attraction.
The wandering sheep has no particular intention of going wrong.  It does
not set off with a deliberate wish to run away; it is simply led on step
by step by any attraction that lies beside its path.  And is not this the
case with thousands of those who have wandered from the Shepherd’s care?

In the second parable the loss is occasioned by the neglect of others.
The piece of money is lost through carelessness, without any fault of its
own.  The person who had the charge of it took no heed to be sure that it
was safe.  How many are there in exactly that position?  They have been
lost, humanly speaking, through want of care.

But the third character is quite distinct from both the others.  The
Prodigal Son was lost because he deliberately and determinately left his
father’s home.  He was totally unlike the wandering sheep led on from
step to step without a plan, for he had a plan, and he deliberately
carried it out.  This, then, is far the worst of the three.  It
represents one living in the midst of privileges, but deliberately
casting away his faith.  He has life and death brought before him, and he
chooses death, or, at all events, he chooses that which leads to death.
Oh! how marvellous is the boundless grace and mercy of our God, that He
should go out of His way to seek and to save any one so unthankful and so
guilty!



THE SEEKING OF THE SAVIOUR.


He seeks by coming Himself as the Son of Man.  The Shepherd leaving the
fold and going forth into the wilderness to seek the wanderer, is a
picture of the Son of God leaving the glory which He had with the Father
before the world was, and visiting this fallen world as the Son of man,
in order that He might seek, and, by His atoning blood, might save the
sinner.  We shall never understand His grace in seeking us if we do not
realize that great act of His already complete.  This great finished work
of His is the foundation of all that follows, and if we want to
understand the mystery of His love in seeking us we must begin with the
two great facts, Incarnation and Atonement.  Why did He become man?  Why
was He born at Bethlehem?  Was it not because He came on a divine mission
to seek the sinner?  Why did He die?  Why did He utter that bitter cry
upon the cross?  Was it not that He might remove the curse by bearing it,
and having broken down every barrier, might have the joy of bringing the
lost one to the Father’s home?  You, then, who are anxious about your
souls, and whose earnest desire it is to be sought out and saved,
remember what the Son of man has already done; fall back on the finished
fact; and never forget that however doubtful you may be as to your own
position, there is no doubt whatever as to the fact that the Son of God
has come to seek the lost one and to save him by His blood.



HE SEEKS THROUGH HUMAN AGENCY.


I cannot think that the woman lighting a candle and sweeping the house
represents the Saviour.  She is generally, and I think correctly, thought
to represent the Church.  If this be the case it may serve to teach how
the whole Church of Christ ought to be entirely engaged in carrying out
the sacred mission of our Blessed Lord.  It is not the Spirit alone that
is to say “Come,” {15} but the Bride and all that hear the message.  He
has become man and died for us, but we are to light the candle, sweep the
house, and seek diligently till we find the lost ones.  We are to spare
no effort for their recovery: we are to search them out; we are to let
them know that there is a Christian friend anxious for their safety, and
that there will not only be joy amongst the angels of God, but a hearty
welcome amongst His people on earth for any poor lost one brought in
lowly repentance to the feet of the Blessed Saviour, there to find pardon
and recovery.

And what are we to say of the third parable, for we find no mention of
the seeking there.  But we find the divine act most remarkably
represented, for there we may see how God Himself seeks the wanderer.  We
do not see the father doing it in the parable, but we do see how God
Himself does it in fact.  We there see the work both of His providence
and of His Spirit.  Of His providence, for the Father in heaven both
sought and found him, just as He is doing with thousands now.  He took
from him one thing after another till all hope was gone, and he envied
even the swine their meal.  God was seeking him, so He broke him down and
crushed him on purpose that He might save.

But God did much more than bring him into trouble, for trouble very often
does nothing but harden.  But in this case the Spirit of God was seeking
him, so that it was a trouble blessed by the Spirit, and he was led with
a broken heart to say, “Father, I have sinned.”

See how God Himself sought him and brought him to true repentance.  He
was far away from the hand of man.  He was lost to his father’s home.
But he was never lost sight of by God.  There was a loving eye watching
him, and a loving care seeking him, so that though lost to man he was not
lost to God, and his father with a full heart was able at length to say,
“This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”



A DIVINE SALVATION


                   “Salvation is of the Lord.”—JONAH ii. 9.

    “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that
    pertain onto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that
    hath called us to glory and virtue.”—2 ST. PETER i. 3.

NO one can read his Bible without being convinced that it is full of
practical exhortations as to human conduct and human effort.  Those who
are seeking the Lord Jesus Christ are exhorted to repent, to believe, to
be converted, to seek, to come, and to follow on to know the Lord.  Hence
it follows that as we are very apt to see only one side of anything at a
time, there is a great tendency to dwell exclusively on human action, and
to exhort, and to persuade, as if everything was in our own hands, so
that we may do just what we please, and when we please, in the great
matter of our soul’s salvation.  People are apt to write and speak about
coming to Jesus as if it all rested with the sinner himself.  But this,
though deduced from a truth, is not the whole truth of Scripture.  We
find there beyond all doubt the warning, the offer and the invitation;
but we find also the clear description of a divine salvation, the plan of
divine wisdom, and the gift of divine grace.  Accordingly in this passage
when St. Peter {17} is addressing those who had obtained like precious
faith with himself, he makes it perfectly clear at the very outset of his
letter that they had obtained it, not by the power of their own energy,
or the determination of their own will, but through the power of God, the
gift of God, and the call of God, “whereby were given unto them exceeding
great and precious promises.” {18a}

Let us, therefore, turn our attention to the divine side of the great
transaction, and trace through four successive steps, the divine Saviour,
the divine salvation, the divine revelation, and the divine application.



I.  A DIVINE SAVIOUR.


It is not my business now to make any attempt to prove the divinity of
our Blessed Redeemer, for I take it for granted that we all admit the
great truths of Christianity.  What I desire now to do is to point out
that, if saved at all, we are saved by a Person, and that that Person is
divine.  The Lord Jesus Christ is a personal Saviour, and as a personal
Saviour, saves us from the death of sin.  It is as much a personal act as
when a bold swimmer leaps into the ocean and saves a drowning man.

Now it is plain that everything depends on the nature and power of the
person who saves us.  If He be only man, then we can hope for nothing
more than a man-made salvation.  The salvation will not rise above the
Saviour; but if He is divine, then we may rest on His divine omnipotence,
and look for the power of God unto salvation.  Thus the divinity of the
Lord Jesus Christ is a matter of life and death to us.  The question is
whether we are to save ourselves or be saved by our God.  And this is the
issue which He Himself raised when He said, “I give unto them eternal
life.” {18b}  The statement of that passage is that He, as a Person,
holds His people in His own hand, and holds them with omnipotent strength
because He is divine, for He and the Father are one.  There, then, is
both the foundation and the keystone of our trust.  We may see all kinds
of difficulties; there may be confusion, perplexity, and the cry of
distress in every direction, but according to His divine power God has
provided a divine Saviour, and in that Saviour we may rest, for He is the
Son of God.



II.  A DIVINE SALVATION.


The whole plan from first to last is divine.  The world is full of human
plans, some of which are successful and some total failures.  One man
contrives one thing and one another, but God alone planned the great
salvation.  It was not in the power of ruined nature to restore itself,
so in boundless mercy and in His own divine omnipotence He provided a
plan of restoration.  Thus the purpose is divine, His own eternal purpose
before the world was; the mode of reconciliation is divine, the release
of the sinner through the imputation of sin to the sin-bearer.  The
propitiation was divine, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation
through faith in His blood.” {20a}  The imputation of righteousness is
divine, “For God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we
might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” {20b}

The work of sanctification is divine, “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who
of God is made unto us . . . sanctification;” {20c} and the final
gathering of God’s elect will be divine for “all that are in the graves
shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.” {20d}

It is most important to bear this well in mind, for it places the subject
beyond the sphere of human speculation.  If a man starts a new system of
philosophy, or if people advocate any particular system in politics, we
are perfectly at liberty to criticise it.  What one man does, another man
may criticise.  But it is a very different thing with the salvation of
God.  Once admit that it is a divine plan, arranged in divine wisdom and
carried out in divine power, and it is then manifestly beyond the reach
of human intellect.  There may be things in it which seem to us very
mysterious; but what else can we expect when the infinite and divine
arrangements of God are subjected to the speculations of the finite mind
of man?  If the whole salvation were of such a character as to present no
points of difficulty to the human inquirer, we might almost doubt its
divinity, and believe that as it is within the range of man’s mind, so it
had its origin in man’s ingenuity.  But when we see it beyond the reach
of man, then we are taught by our own inability to fathom it, to regard
it as a plan above ourselves, for the simple reason that it is divine.



III.  DIVINE REVELATION.


But when we have acknowledged that the Saviour and the salvation are
divine, there remains a further question of the utmost possible
importance.  It is this.  In what way is this divine salvation made known
to mankind?  Is it known by human discovery or divine communication?  Do
we know it by thinking out the subject, or by receiving a revelation from
God?  Surely the answer to this question is obvious, that a divine
salvation can only be known by a divine communication.  The eternal
purpose of God can only be known by divine communication from Himself.  A
supernatural salvation requires in the very nature of things a
supernatural communication from God.  Thus an Apostle describes {21} the
faith, not as having been _discovered by_ the saints, but as having been
_delivered to_ the saints, delivered to them, that is, in God’s own
inspired Word.  As God has planned a complete salvation, so He has given
a complete revelation of that salvation.  He has not left us to grope for
it as blind men feeling for the wall; but has revealed His plan in His
own word, and taught us to rest in the scripture of truth as His own
revelation of His purpose of grace.



IV.  THE DIVINE APPLICATION.


To many this is the most difficult of the four points mentioned at the
outset.  They are perfectly satisfied as to the divine Saviour, the
divine salvation, and the divine revelation in the Word of God, but have
found no little difficulty in the application of it to themselves.  They
can see the chain with its three links hanging down from heaven over
their heads, but it is just out of their own reach, and as a poor dying
sailor once said to me, “I see the rope, but I cannot get hold of it.”
So they see the salvation, but cannot get hold of it as their own.  If
there are any anxious on the subject, and earnestly desiring “to get
hold” on the great salvation, let them remember that what they really
want is for _the Saviour to lay hold on them_, and this is what He
practically does by the power of the Holy Ghost.  It is the peculiar
office of the Holy Ghost to take of the things of the Lord Jesus Christ
and apply them unto us, and without that act of His we may struggle in
vain to reach the blessing.  It is not enough for us to be told that God
has provided a perfect Saviour, that that Saviour has made a perfect
propitiation, and that by virtue of that propitiation the great salvation
is offered to us as a gift.  We may be assured of all that and yet live
on without it, for we want in addition that which the human heart cannot
find in itself, the power to receive the gift and, receiving it, to live.
It is by this mighty power that those who sleep are awakened; those far
off are brought nigh; the bondsmen are set free; the dead made alive, and
those who are strangers and outcasts are made heirs of God through the
blood of Christ.

There is no case too hopeless for the Lord’s salvation.  There are many
who have been so utterly unsuccessful in their efforts to rise that they
begin to think there is something peculiar in themselves which makes them
an exception to the general offer of life and pardon.  And there are
others who are longing for the salvation of some stubborn, unbroken
heart, but who have sought so long and so hopelessly that they almost
begin to despair.  Now whether your anxiety be for yourself or others,
remember the divinity of the great salvation.  If the whole is divine,
why should it not be sufficient?  You say you are dead, but cannot the
divine power raise the dead?  You say your sins are too great for pardon,
but is not the divine propitiation sufficient for them all?  You say you
cannot produce even a good prayer, but does not the divine revelation
assure you that the salvation is a free gift even for those who have
nothing?

Give up, then, all thought of working yourself up to salvation, for that
is a mere human process, and is certain to fail, but throw yourself
_before you are saved_ right away on the Saviour for His great gift of
salvation.  Remember that the whole thing from first to last is divine,
and, because it is divine, as a little child trust it without the
slightest qualification, trust the promise, accept the gift, and may God
grant that you may be able to use as your own the words of the text,
“According as His divine power hath given unto me all things that pertain
unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who hath called
_me_ to glory and virtue.”



FEELINGS


                       “Love, joy, peace.”—GAL. v. 22.

FEELINGS clearly have their place in the things of God.  Our Christianity
is based on principles, but still it calls forth the feelings.  Now there
are two great extremes into which we are apt to fall with reference to
Christian feeling.

There are some whose religion seems to consist in feeling only.  They
look for warm, bright emotions, they bring everything to the standard of
their feelings, and if they feel as they wish to do they are satisfied.
Their hearts are warmed by the things of God, and many a cold, phlegmatic
theologian would be a different being if he could but catch something of
their feeling.

But still we must put in a caution, for feelings, however bright, are not
to be trusted unless they rise out of principle and end in practice.  If
you have feeling only—a feeling not based on solid acquaintance with
Scriptural truth, it will rise like a bubble, and look as beautiful in
its colours, but it will burst as easily as the bubble does, and even at
its best estate can never bear the slightest pressure.  Here, then, is
one extreme—the religion of feeling, of emotion, of impression, taking
the place of the religion of conviction, of principle, of faith.

But there is another extreme: I mean the religion without feeling.  Some
seem to think all emotion, or warmth, or fervour is enthusiasm, and
settle down satisfied with a cold reception of Christian truth.  They may
be quite correct in their creed, and may really believe all the great
truths of the Gospel, but their system is to give no expression to
Christian emotion, and this has a wonderful power of chilling all around
them.

We must not rest satisfied with an unfeeling consent to Christian truth.
We want to feel as well as to know, and to have the heart really warmed
by the tender love of our gracious Saviour.  But here I suspect that I
shall be met by a great difficulty on the part of many of you, for this
feeling is exactly that which many cannot find.  You can understand, but
you cannot feel.  Your great trouble is, that there is such a dreadful
apathy over your whole soul that nothing seems to rouse it.  If this is
the case consider—



I.  THE FEELINGS, HOWEVER WARM, CAN NEVER JUSTIFY, AND THE WANT OF
FEELING DOES NOT PREVENT JUSTIFICATION.


I have known persons who have long since given up all idea of being
justified by _works_, who still have a secret clinging to some idea of
being justified by _feelings_.  If they could but feel more—more love,
more repentance, more warmth—then they think they could trust Christ for
their acceptance.  They have learned, they think, to trust Him if they
have the feelings, but they would not venture to do so without them.

Now, before they can be happy in Christ they will have to go a step
deeper, and learn to trust Him when they have not the feelings as well as
when they have.  They must remember that our justification is entirely
dependent on His atonement and His righteousness, and so it is His free
gift, freely given to those that are dead in sin.  Now a dead man has no
feelings.  If, therefore, we wait for our justification until we have the
feelings we must wait till we are alive.  But the language of Scripture
is, “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,
even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.”
{26}  Your only hope, therefore, is to trust Him as you are, without
waiting till you are one atom warmer than you are at this present moment.
With your heart as cold as you now feel it to be, you must throw yourself
at once before His feet, and cry, “Lord, save me, I perish.”

Closely connected with this suggestion is another, namely this—



II.  IF YOU WANT TO BE MADE TO FEEL, YOU MUST LOSE NO TIME IN GOING NEAR
TO A FATHER’S THRONE.


You will never feel warm while you stand shivering outside the city.  You
must go inside, even while you are cold, and there have your heart warmed
by the Lord Himself.  Remember that the great heart-warming subject is
the tender love of God as displayed in Christ Jesus.  If the love of
Christ does not make you feel, nothing else will.  Do not, therefore,
stand afar off gazing on your own coldness, but turn at once to the Cross
of Christ.  Study Him in the garden bowed down under the heavy burden of
sin; study Him on the cross forsaken even of the Father, and remember
that all that was borne for you, even for you.  Remember there was a
personal connection between Him and you in the whole of that great
transaction, and so abide, as it were, gazing on the Lord Jesus, on His
life, on His meekness, on His burden, on His cry.  Pray God that you may
realize your part in the whole matter.  Confess before Him your own cold,
dead, lifeless condition.  Trust Him, as He died for you, to save you
from it; and so you may hope that, though you feel so cold as you
approach Him, you may experience something of His love when you gaze on
Him, and know something even of His joy when you go on your way justified
through His grace.



III.  REMEMBER WELL THAT FEELING IS THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND THAT
YOU CANNOT WORK YOURSELF UP TO IT.


It is very clearly the work of the Holy Spirit to call forth feeling.  He
does not act on the head only, but on the heart also.  He opens the
understanding, but His great office is to make His people feel what they
already know.  Thus of the nine fruits of the Spirit {27a} the first
three are all emotions.  Their seat is neither in the head nor in the
practice, but they are all feelings of the heart, “Love, joy, peace.”
They all lead to practice, and all are founded on principle, but all
three are sacred emotions implanted there by the Holy Ghost Himself.

If, therefore, your cold, unfeeling heart is a real sorrow to you; if the
trouble of your heart is that your sins trouble you so little, and that
you feel so coldly towards that Blessed Saviour who has felt for you so
deeply, rest not content, but throw yourself before God that the Spirit
of grace and of supplication may enable you to look upon Him whom you
have pierced, that He may take of the things of Jesus and show them unto
you; that He may call forth in your soul His own fruits of love, joy, and
peace, and that so He may answer you the Apostle’s prayer—“The God of
Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” {27b}



A PEACEFUL DEATH-BED


    “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy
    word:

    “For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”—ST. LUKE ii. 29, 30.

OUR thoughts are often directed to the blessed prospect of our Lord’s
return, and there cannot be a doubt that His personal coming is the
crowning hope of the Church of God.  At the same time, it is most
important for us to be, if I may so express it, familiar with the thought
of the present heaven.  The youngest amongst us may be cut down at any
moment, and the old amongst us must be convinced that our time is short,
and that our places must soon be filled by others.  We ought, therefore,
to know where we are going, and what it is that awaits us when “the
earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved.” {28a}

The words of our text, so often chanted in our churches, express a
sentiment to which, I fear, many who chant them are entire strangers, for
they express the peaceful readiness with which Simeon was looking forward
to his death.  It had been “revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he
should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” {28b}  He
had, therefore, spent his latter days waiting and watching for the
promised Christ, and at length, when the Child was presented in the
Temple, he saw in that Child the Messiah for whom he had been waiting,
and then it was that, his hope being fulfilled, he could bless God and
say, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.”

There are three subjects suggested by his words.



I.  THE VIEW WHICH IS HERE GIVEN OF DEATH.


He does not speak of it as annihilation, destruction, or stupefaction,
but as a departure or removal from one place to another.  If a person
were to depart from this place and go elsewhere, he would simply change
his home.  Until he departs his home is here, but when he departs his
home is elsewhere.

Is it not exactly the same when the spirit departs from its present home
and removes to the building of God, the house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens?  In this case, as in an earthly removal,
departure implies the continuance of life.  Thus I rejoice in the many
passages in which death is spoken of as a departure.  It was clearly the
idea in the mind of St. Paul, as when he said, “having a desire to
depart,” {29a} and again, “The time of my departure is at hand.” {29b}
When those we love are in far distant lands we see them not, but they are
there; our eyes cannot behold them, nor our ears hear their pleasant
voices, for they are far away, but that does not lead us to doubt either
their life, their intelligence, or their affection.  Just so it is with
those that are gone.  We no longer hear the voice, or look on the loved
countenance, but we are fully persuaded that, as spirits, they are living
elsewhere, that separation is not destruction, and that removal does not
involve the diminution of the intelligent powers of the living mind.

But if death is thus a departure, where is the place to which the spirit
goes?  Over this point there is a veil thrown in Scripture.  If we were
to know all about it there would be nothing in the knowledge to affect
our practical conduct, so there is no knowledge given.  Nor do we require
it, for one thing is told us, and that one thing is enough.  If assured
of that one thing we want no more.  What, then, is that one thing so
clearly revealed to us in God’s holy Word?  Where shall we find an
account of it?  Let us turn to the language of the Apostle Paul: “I am in
a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ.”
{30a}  He knew, therefore, that in his departure he should depart to be
with Christ, in the conscious enjoyment of His perceptible and
never-ceasing love.



II.  THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THE BELIEVER MAY DIE.


This is described in the words of Simeon, “Let thy servant depart in
peace.”  Simeon could look forward to his dying hour in a tranquil spirit
of calm, resting peace.  How often is there care on the heart of the
dying believer.  A father may be leaving his wife and family, who have
been dependent on him for support; or a mother her children, with the
strong conviction that there is no substitute for a mother’s love.  Let
no one suppose that there is no trial of faith in such a separation, and
that it is not, in many cases, very hard to trust.  But in Christ Jesus
there may be peace even in such a parting, and the dying mother, if she
knows her Saviour, may trust her all into His loving hands, and say, “I
know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that
which I have committed unto Him.” {30b}  She has committed her children
into His care.  They are her deposit with God, and she may be at perfect
peace in the assurance that, though _she_ is departing, _He_ is
remaining, and will remain a faithful Saviour till every one of those
dear children is presented safe before His throne.

Let no one suppose that it is not a very solemn thing to die, to be
suddenly cut off from everything of which we have ever had any
experience, and to launch out alone into an invisible world.  It cannot,
therefore, be an easy thing to die in peace.  But, thanks be to God, we
believe that the departing spirit passes at once into the loving presence
of our Redeemer, and why should there not be peace?  I believe it is the
forgetfulness of this personal entrance into the personal presence of a
personal Saviour that sometimes seems to darken the dying hour.  People
forget those few words, “Thou art with me,” {31a} and then they are
afraid.  But when we rest on those words, and combine them with our
assured hope, knowing that He is now with us invisibly, and that we are
going to be with Him visibly, then we shall be able to say, as Simeon
did, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.”



III.  THE GREAT FOUNDATION OF SIMEON’S PEACEFUL TRUST.


His eyes had seen the salvation of God.  What he had really seen was the
promised Messiah, that is, the Lord’s Christ.  The little child was the
promised Saviour, and to him the Saviour was salvation.  The Person and
the Gift were so bound together that they were as one.  He could not know
the Person without the Gift, or enjoy the Gift except through the Person.
Thus our Lord, more than thirty years afterwards, spoke of Himself as
“the Salvation,” {31b} when He said, as He entered into the house of
Zacchæus, “This day is salvation come to this house.”  Simeon had what we
cannot have, something material that he could handle and look upon.  His
hand could handle and his eye could see the little child; and there
cannot be a doubt that there is in the human mind a craving after
something visible, tangible, and material.  But we have nothing of the
kind; we cannot hold our salvation in our hands.  Neither do we want it
there.  It is safer in the hands of our Lord Himself.  But though we
cannot say, “Mine _eyes_ have seen,” we can say, thanks be to God, “Mine
_heart_ hath seen,” and we can understand the words, “Whom having not
seen, ye love.” {32a}  There is exactly the same union in that passage
between the Saviour and the salvation.  Receiving Him we receive
salvation, and beholding Him with the eye of faith we behold, as it were,
our names written in the Book of Life.

To behold the Saviour is a very personal matter.  It is not merely to
behold Him like a monument on a distant hill, which we can admire, but
never enter; or as a harbour of refuge which we cannot reach.  It must
not be with us as it was with Balaam when he said, “I shall behold Him,
but not nigh,” {32b} for the invitation to us is to draw near, and our
privilege is in our inmost soul to pour out our heart before Him, as
before One who knows all its secrets, and through His own most precious
blood has blotted out all its guilt.  This has thrown a gleam of sacred
light into many a death-chamber.  May God grant that it may be the same
with each of us.  Let none of us rest until we can say, “Mine eyes have
seen Thy salvation,” till we not merely know that there is a Saviour, but
can rest assured that He has saved us, and has made us—even us—heirs of
God and joint-heirs with Himself in His kingdom.



A PEACEFUL LIFE


    “To me to live is Christ.”—PHIL. i. 21.

WE have studied the subject of a peaceful death-bed and I hope we learned
how to die.  Let us now turn our thoughts to a peaceful life and
endeavour to learn how to live.  The two things are bound fast together.

Let us study what St. Paul meant when he said, “To me to live is Christ.”
When there is any one object, for which, and in which, a person lives, it
is not an uncommon thing to say it is his life.  To a certain extent this
explains the expression, “To me to live is Christ,” for the Lord Jesus
Christ was the one absorbing object of St. Paul’s whole life.  He thought
of Him; he leaned on Him; he trusted in Him; he loved Him, and he lived
for Him.  He could not do without Him.  If we look at the subject more in
detail we find three things very clearly taught us in Scripture.  Our
life is hidden _with_ Him, dependent _on_ Him, and devoted _to_ Him.



HIDDEN WITH HIM


In this stormy world we perpetually need a hiding-place, a shelter from
the storm, and a covert from the blast.  And so in the great prophecy of
our Lord and Saviour revealed in Isaiah, we read of Him, “A man shall be
as an hiding-place from the wind.” {34a}  But three centuries before
Isaiah uttered that prophecy David had learnt to hide under His care, and
said of Him, “Thou art my hiding-place.” {34b}  The trouble from which he
was hiding was deep conviction of sin.  In consequence of his sin the
hand of God had been heavy upon him day and night.  But at length the
guilt of his great sin had been blotted out, and as a forgiven man he
could find shelter in the very God against whom he had transgressed.  He
could hide himself in the love of Him against whom he had sinned, and
instead of finding the Lord’s hand heavy upon him, he could rejoice in
the thought that there was a wall of praise around him.  Now just in the
same way our life is said to be hidden with Christ.  “Your life is hid
with Christ in God.” {34c}  It is not exposed to the rude shocks of the
outer world, but is hidden with Him.  As _He_ is unseen, so _it_ is
unseen; but as _He_ is safe at the right hand of the Father, so is _it_
safe, being laid up in perfect safety as a sure deposit in the
everlasting fidelity of God.  It is on the safety of this deposit that
our whole life depends.  If there were the slightest doubt about it we
should be like ships drifting on the wide ocean without either chart,
compass, or anchorage.  But now we are safe because indissolubly bound up
with the Saviour, and so completely is our life identified with Him that
in the next verse He is described as “Christ our life.”  He holds our
life in His right hand.  He is the source, the fountain, and the main
spring of it all, so that we can well understand the words of St. John,
“He that hath the Son hath life.” {34d}



DEPENDENT ON HIM


There is a struggle in the human heart for independence.  The tendency of
the day is to throw off all dependence, and, with it, all submission.
“_I_ will,” “_I_ choose,” “_I_ think,” “_I_ determine,” “_I_ am
resolved,” is the self-sufficient language of these latter days.  Now
such an one can never say, “To me to live is Christ.”  If he say anything
it should be, “To me to live is self!”  But see what a contrast there is
in the life of the believer.  Turn only to one passage in Galatians.
There you find the “I” crucified; “I am crucified with Christ.” {35}  But
though the “I” is crucified, there is a life that remains for
“Nevertheless I live.”  And now what is the character of this abiding
life?  The latter part of the verse describes it, “Yet not I, but Christ
liveth in me.”  These words tell of a life of habitual dependence.  It
all depends on the in-dwelling Saviour.  His in-dwelling, that is life,
that is the secret of everything.  But how is this indwelling realized?
How is it appropriated or experienced?  It is clear that it cannot be
known by the senses.  We cannot see, hear, or handle Him.  We must not
look for anything material.  Nor is it connected here with anything
Sacramental; but it is described as the unspeakable blessing of an
abiding faith, “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the
faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

We must not leave the passage without remarking two facts respecting that
love.

(1)  It was shown in propitiation.  St. Paul did not merely say, “Who
loved me,” but adds, “Who gave Himself for me.”  There are many proofs of
His love, but the crowning act of all is propitiation.  It is the ransom
paid in full that is the one hope for the captive, and the supreme
evidence of the Redeemer’s love.

(2)  The love was not merely for all, but according to that passage, “for
_me_.”  One individual is a mere unit in a crowd, no more than a grain of
sand in an Egyptian desert; so that it seems a very easy thing for any
one person to be lost in the multitude.  But it is the office of God the
Holy Ghost to apply the work wrought out for _all_ to the special need of
_each one_.



DEVOTED TO HIM


St. Paul could say, “To me to live is Christ,” for he could also say
without hesitation that the one thought of his life was his Saviour’s
glory.  He lived for one object, and that one object is described as his
life.  Now we hear a great deal of consecration in these days, and we
cannot hear too much, if only it is kept in its right place, for there is
far too little consecration to God amongst us.  Consecration is the
surrender of the whole life to the Lord.  It is the setting the Lord
always before us in all that He calls us to do.  We have been loved by
Him, redeemed by Him, called by Him, and saved by Him; so now we are His.
We belong to Him altogether.  Our powers are no longer our own, but our
Lord’s; our lives should be no longer occupied for ourselves, but for our
Lord; so that in us may be carried out the purpose of redeeming love as
described by St. Paul.  “He died for all, that they which live should not
henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and
rose again.” {37}

Shall we live for ourselves or for His glory?  For the gratification of
self, or for the happy, holy, sacred service of Him to whom we owe all
that we have, and all that we hope for, our Blessed Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ?



THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT


    “Ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”—ST.
    JOHN xiv. 17.

IN this verse our Blessed Lord spoke of the knowledge enjoyed by His
people.  He spoke of the present, and the future; of that which they had
then at the time that He was with them, and of that which they were about
to enjoy after the Day of Pentecost, when He would be taken away from
them.  With reference to the present He says “He dwelleth” (or, is
dwelling) with you, or amongst you; with reference to the future He says
“He shall be in you.”  There are clearly, therefore, two great subjects
to be considered, the knowledge enjoyed by the disciples when the Lord
Jesus was still upon earth, and the knowledge enjoyed by all His people
ever since the Day of Pentecost.



I.  WHEN HE WAS ON EARTH.


    “Ye know Him for He dwelleth with you.”

The expression does not describe an internal union within the soul, but
an external companionship.  The meaning is the same as when St. John
said, “There standeth one among you, whom ye know not.” {38}  There they
were, a little company of disciples, and amongst them in the midst of
their society, in the room where they were assembled, was abiding, or
dwelling, the Spirit of Truth.

Now what was the meaning of this declaration?  Was it not this?  That the
Holy Spirit was at that time dwelling amongst them as embodied and
manifested in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Of Him it was said by
John the Baptist “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.” {39a}
So it was said by St. Paul, “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the
Godhead bodily.” {39b}  And by St. Peter we are taught that He was
anointed with the Holy Ghost, and God was with Him. {39c}

Consider, then, the Lord Jesus Christ as God manifest in the flesh, as
the human manifestation of the mind and power of the Holy Ghost, and you
will see in a moment that while He was on earth the Spirit of Truth was
dwelling amongst the disciples.  Where the Lord Jesus was, there was the
Spirit; where He dwelt, there the Spirit dwelt; and when He and those
twelve disciples sat together at the Last Supper, He could say of the
Spirit of Truth, “Ye know Him for He dwelleth with, or among, you.”



II.  THE KNOWLEDGE ENJOYED BY ALL HIS PEOPLE AFTER HIS DEPARTURE.


It was to be very different afterwards.  There is an immense change when
our Lord speaks of what should take place after His departure.  It is no
longer “with,” but “in.”  He would be not merely present in their
company, but abiding in their souls.

In this promise, there are three things requiring our careful notice.

(1)  The promise applies not to a company, to a society, to a Church, or
to any body of men, but _to each individual_.  The Holy Spirit will not
be merely in the midst of a congregation, but a sacred guest in each
soul.  You see this very clearly in the history of the Day of Pentecost.
{40}  The Holy Spirit came on the company, on the Church, for He filled
all the house where they were sitting.  But besides that there was a
separate personal gift to each person present, for “it sat upon each of
them and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”

(2)  The sacred gift is no longer localized or specially enjoyed in one
place.  So long as the Lord Jesus was amongst them where He was, there
was the Gift.  But now, wherever the believer is, there is the Gift.  See
the unspeakable blessedness of this sacred promise.  The gift of the
Spirit is not confined to this place or that.  It is the inestimable
privilege of each individual believer wherever he is, and in whatever
position it may please God to cast his lot.  You may be cut off from the
means of grace in which you have delighted, but wherever you are, you are
not cut off from the Spirit of Truth, from the indwelling of the Holy
Ghost, for He is not limited to time, or place, or circumstance, and
wherever you go at the Lord’s command, there you will carry His presence
with you.

(3)  He dwells _within_ the soul.

There is this great difference between His presence and that of the most
faithful and loving of friends.  The friend can only judge by the
outside; the anxious look, the tear in the eye, or the words of sorrow.
But the Spirit of Truth is within, and He takes note of the inner secrets
of the soul.  He does not wait for any external evidence of what is
passing.  The hidden springs of thought are all open to His eye: the
secret pain that is never breathed to any one; the hidden hope that
smoulders in the heart; the subtle temptation that is beginning to grow
up unperceived, and the yearning of soul after a higher life,—all these
things are open to Him, and He, dwelling within and knowing all that is
passing within, can check, can guide, can heal, can help, can supply any
possible need “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” {41a}

There is no telling, then, the unspeakable blessing of the Pentecostal
gift, and we can perfectly understand why it was that our Lord said “It
is expedient for you that I go away.”

But do we all desire it?  “Of course we do,” say some.  But it is not at
all a matter of course.  There was no room for Christ in the inn at
Bethlehem, and there is no room for the Spirit of Truth in many hearts.
If He dwells within your soul He will humble you and make you to “abhor
yourself and repent in dust and ashes.” {41b}  Do you desire that?  If He
dwells within you, He will wean you from the world and teach you to live
as one looking for the Kingdom.  Do you desire that?  If He dwells within
you He will teach you to give up your own will.  Do you desire that?  Do
you desire really to be led by the Spirit, taught by the Spirit to become
a humble, gentle, and submissive child of God?  I fear there are many
who, when the whole subject is considered, are not prepared to give Him
an unreserved welcome, and would be tempted to close the door of their
hearts against His entrance.  If the door is opened by them at all, it is
only set ajar, and not thrown wide open that the King of Glory may enter
in, in the fulness of His power, and turn out everything that is at
variance with His will.

But I believe there are many who would hold nothing back and who long
above all things that the Spirit of Truth may take full possession of
their souls.  Their difficulty is not that they do not wish it, but that
they can scarcely believe it possible that He should ever dwell in such a
heart as theirs.  They find so much sin there that they can scarcely
imagine it possible that the Holy Comforter should not be driven from
them by all that He sees within.  No doubt there is quite sufficient to
drive Him grieved and displeased from His resting-place, and if it were
not for the everlasting covenant of God, and the precious blood of
Christ, I can perfectly understand the impossibility of His making such a
heart His dwelling-place.  But the atoning blood alters the whole case.
The blood of Christ breaks down every barrier.  It is a new and living
way {42} by which not only may you enter boldly into the presence of God,
but through which the Spirit of God may enter your heart and take full
possession of it as His own abiding-place.

If you are longing to be filled with the Spirit, you must look straight
to that cross of Christ.  You must remember the fulness of the pardon.
You must trust to that Atonement as breaking down even the barrier raised
by your own dark corruption, and, pleading that precious blood, must open
every avenue of your soul to the Spirit of Truth, that He may enter in
and there reign supreme.



THE WITNESS—THE LEADER—THE COMMANDER


    “Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people, a leader and
    commander to the people.”—ISA. lv. 4.

IT is often said that a living head is essential to the well-being of a
living Church.  Nothing can be clearer than the teaching of Scripture
that our Living Head is in heaven now, seated at the right hand of God.

It is as a Living Head that our Blessed Saviour is here predicted.  Three
rich promises are made by God to every hungering and thirsting
heart—Life, a Covenant, and a living Head.  Life, for He says, “Hear, and
your soul shall live.”  A covenant, for He says, “I will make an
everlasting covenant with you;” and a Head, for He adds, in the words of
our text, “Behold I have given Him for a witness to the people, a leader
and commander to the people.”

The question may arise, “Who is it that is thus given for a witness?  Who
is the person that the people are to recognize as their leader and
commander?”  The prophecy says David.  But David, we know, was a typical
character.  He was not merely a king, but a type; a type of Him who was
to be both his son and his Lord.  Accordingly we are taught that the name
David was applied to the Lord Jesus, for we find the words applied by St.
Paul to Christ and His resurrection. {44a}  We are there taught that when
God raised up Christ from the dead, He gave us the sure mercies of David.
The Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, is the Witness, He is the Leader, and
He the Commander of His people.  In other words the risen Redeemer is our
Living Head.

The text, therefore, directs us to His present action, not to His death
or even to His life before His death, but to His present Headship at the
right hand of God.  He is



A WITNESS


One who bears a true and faithful testimony.  This He did in His life on
earth, as we learn from His own words when He stood before Pilate.  “To
this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I
should bear witness into the truth.” {44b}  And this same character He
maintains in heaven, for at the opening of the Book of Revelation we are
taught to look for grace and peace “from Jesus Christ the faithful
witness, the first-begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of
the earth.” {44c}  It is clear that as the “first-begotten,” that is, as
the risen Saviour, He now acts as a witness.

This is done in two ways.  He is a witness to the world, bearing witness
to God’s great plan of salvation.  But more than that He witnesses to the
heart of each of His own children, assuring them of His faithfulness,
confirming them in His truth, and doing what David prayed Him to do, “Say
unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” {44d}  There is an outer and an inner
witness; an outer witness in the power of His Spirit accompanying His
word, and an inner witness within the souls of His own people; hidden
from the world and known only to those who enjoy it, that witness of
which St. John spoke when he said, “He that believeth on the Son of God
hath the witness in himself.” {45a}  And this may teach us an important
lesson respecting the true nature of faith.  It is faith when we receive
the testimony of the Lord Jesus as an undoubted truth, and, without
questioning, simply believe Him.  There are difficult truths taught in
His word, and some strangely at variance with human opinion; but true
faith gives up all and trusts.  It makes a complete surrender to Jesus
Christ, the faithful witness.



HE IS A LEADER


And when we speak of Him as a Leader, we must not connect His office
merely with the idea of war, for it is the office of peace also.  When
our Lord compares Himself to the Shepherd He says He “leadeth them out.”
{45b}  Nor is His office of a leader given up even in the peaceful rest
of Heaven.  There is a leading Hand even there, for when St. John was
permitted to look in and to see the great multitude before the Throne,
the Angel referred him to words from the blessed promise in Isaiah. {45c}
In heaven, therefore, the promise is both fulfilled and known.  It is
fulfilled, for there the saints of God are refreshed by the living
waters; and it is known, for the Angel himself, while describing the joys
of heaven, calls attention to the ancient prophecy, and shows how in the
peaceful scene around him it was receiving its complete fulfilment.

Now what is implied when we are taught that the Lord Jesus is a Leader
for His people?  It implies much more than teaching, and therefore the
office of the leader is far beyond that of witness.  It would be of but
little use to explain to a blind man the windings of some narrow path.
But it would be an act of great kindness to take him by the hand and lead
him.  And this is what our Leader does for us, for He says, “I will bring
the blind by a way they knew not.” {46a}

Our proud hearts may dislike the dependent position of either the feeble
or the blind; but, whether we like it or no, we are both blind and
feeble, unable to trace our path amidst the perplexities of life, and
equally unable to move safely alone even when the path may be discovered.
It is, therefore, in mercy and in tender love that God has given Him to
be a Leader, and our part is to accept the gift and trust Him.  When we
are brought into perplexity, into one of those positions of life where
two ways seem to meet, we may fall down before Him as our great Leader,
and say, “For thy name’s sake, lead me and guide me.” {46b}  When we find
ourselves in slippery places and scarcely know how to stand, we may come
into His presence and cry, “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.” {46c}
When perplexing doctrine is presented to us, and false teaching abounds
around us, we may spread out His word which contains His testimony, and
say, “Shew me Thy ways, O Lord.” {46d}  And when we come to the valley of
the shadow of death, when no human hand can help us, and no human
sympathy reach our necessities, even then we may be perfectly sure that
our great Leader will never leave us; but as we part from all friends
here on earth, and as all earthly helps fade away, we may lean more
simply and more heavily than ever on Him and say, “Though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with
me.” {47a}

So again for the Church of Christ.  Our lot is cast in very perplexing
times, and those who really care for the Church of God must often have
their hearts filled with deep anxiety.  It is a happy thing to know that
God has given him to be a Leader of the people, and “Head over all things
to the Church.” {47b}  We may trust Him, therefore, to take care of His
own truth, and rest assured that amidst all the perplexities of these
latter days He will guide His own people safe to the end, until every one
of them appeareth before God.



HE IS A COMMANDER


We cannot say of this office, as we did of the last, that it belongs to
peace, for it is one peculiar to war.  The commander is for the
battle-field, and still more for the well-arranged campaign.  Thus our
Lord is presented to us as a Commander in the book of Revelation. {47c}
He then appears in His royal character, and at the same time heading His
army.  He encounters all the powers of the world, but he is surrounded by
a little company of faithful followers, and He leads them on to victory.

The Church of God must be prepared for conflict.  Till the Lord comes sin
will give the Church no peace.  Till Satan is trampled down under His
feet, he will never rest in his deadly warfare against the Lord Jesus and
His little flock.  The soldier of Christ must be a man of war.

The great Commander will have His own chosen and faithful followers—“they
that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” {48a}  They are
marked from the world by a clear line of separation.  They bear His name;
they wear His uniform; they rally round His banner; they are not ashamed
of His reproach; and wheresoever He goeth there it is their joy to follow
Him.  There is no service like His, no commander so perfect, no struggle
so noble, no victory so certain and so glorious.

If we really be amongst the chosen band of faithful followers, our one
standard in life must be the will of our great Commander.  We must be
watching each signal from Him, and owning no authority but His.  From
first to last our spirit must be that of Saul of Tarsus, “Lord, what wilt
Thou have me to do?” {48b}  This may sometimes imply a painful surrender,
a surrender of ease, and inclination, and, hardest of all, of pride.  But
the soldier in the earthly army yields at once to his commanding officer,
and how much more should we, when He has chosen us to be His people,
blotted out our sins by His blood, called us into His own fellowship,
sealed us with His seal, and made us heirs of His Kingdom?



FAITH AND EFFORT


    “Our God shall fight for us.”—NEH. iv. 20.

I CAN imagine nothing better calculated to make a people calm, peaceful,
and courageous, than to be able to say in faith, “Our God shall fight for
us.”  If we can say this, we may think on our country and rest assured
that, whatever happens, all is safe.  If we can say this, we may look
upon God’s people struggling for His truth, sometimes sorely pressed and
sometimes quite disheartened; but when we look on Him whom God has given
to be a Leader and Commander of the people, we may take courage that all
will be well, for He is our God, and He will fight for us.  Or, we may
look at our own personal difficulties, at the temptation without by which
we are surrounded, and the proneness to yield within, which renders us
perpetually liable to its power; and sometimes we may be ready to ask the
question, Can such as we are ever gain the victory?  But, if we can but
say in faith, “Our God shall fight for us,” then, weak as we are, we may
look forward to a triumph, and say even beforehand, “Thanks be to God
which giveth us the victory.”

But there are few cases in which this language of faith was more
appropriate than when originally spoken by Nehemiah.  Nehemiah was one of
the most beautiful characters to be met with in all history.  I know of
no one in whom there was a greater combination of practical,
business-like habits, with true, simple-minded, childlike faith.  When
acting as cup-bearer to the King of Babylon, he heard of the desolation
of Jerusalem, and obtained permission to return thither in order to
rebuild the walls and restore the city.  The Jews at the time were so
exceedingly feeble, that the onlookers laughed them to scorn.  But, when
once the work was begun, contempt was exchanged for indignation, and
Sanballat with others “conspired all of them together to come and to
fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.”  Then it was that Nehemiah
used these words for the great encouragement of all who were working with
him, and said, “Our God shall fight for us.”

But while he thus spoke with the full assurance of confiding faith, he
was not led by that faith to negligence.  True faith never leads to
negligence.  It always stimulates exertion and rouses men to hopeful
energy.  So it did in the case of Nehemiah, for the same verse which
contains the assurance contains also the spirit of active preparation.
We will study the conduct of Nehemiah as furnishing an illustration of
the union of faith and effort, examining first his effort, then his
faith.



I.  THE EFFORT MADE.


It was made under very discouraging circumstances.  The city was in
ruins, the walls were in heaps, and there were only a few restored
captives to labour for their restoration.  Now, in what spirit did these
feeble Jews rise to their work?

(1)  They all worked together.

There was just such an united and harmonious action as we long to witness
in the Church of God.  It is an old proverb that “union is strength.”  In
this case the whole wall was portioned out and all classes united.  First
came the High Priest and his brethren, next the men of Jericho, soon
followed by the carpenters, the goldsmiths, and the apothecaries.  Then
came the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, followed by Shallum and his
daughters; further on we read of Baruch, who set an example to the whole
company, for he _earnestly_ repaired the portion entrusted to his care,
till at length the circuit was complete.

(2)  They worked with a will.

There is such a thing as work without a will.  There is the dull, lazy
work of the idle man, and the mechanical work of those who take no
interest in what they are about.  Just as in religion, there is the
languid performance of a routine as different as possible to the real
wrestling with God in faith.  There is no soul in it, and who can wonder
if there is no result?  In this case there was rapid result, and they
built the wall, and the reason is given, “for the people had a mind to
work.” {51}  An important lesson this for every Christian effort.

(3)  They made real sacrifices for their work.  It must have been a sore
inconvenience to these men to leave their own occupations and to labour
on the wall; but they laboured night and day till the wall rose from its
ruins.  Oh, that we had more of this spirit in the Church of God!  Would
that we knew better how to give to Him so as to pinch ourselves; to give
our time, our money, our painstaking, our real self-denying work, in
order to glorify God, and show that we live not unto ourselves, but unto
Him that died for us and rose again.



II.  THEIR FAITH.


This showed itself in three ways.

(1)  In prayer.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer.  When any trouble arose, his heart turned
as if by an holy instinct to God, and so, when Tobiah mocked their
efforts, Nehemiah gave no rough answer, but he turned his heart upwards
and said, “Hear, O our God, for we are despised.” {52a}  How much bitter
strife would be avoided in the world if men acted like Nehemiah, and,
instead of retorting, spread out their provocations before God.

But the conduct of the opponents soon turned from mockery to war, and
there was a plan to attack the rising walls.  But the attack was met just
in the same way as the insult.  In both cases he gave himself to prayer.
I cannot imagine a better illustration of the praying believer than the
words in verse 9, “Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set
a watch against them day and night.”  They heard of the conspiracy, and
at once spread the intelligence before God; but, having done so, they did
not consider that prayer superseded effort, but day and night they set
their watch on the walls.  Had they watched without praying, they would
have been trusting to their own forethought; and had they prayed without
watching, they would have tempted God to leave them.  But they watched
and they prayed, and they prayed and they watched, and so they acted in
the spirit of the words in aftertimes spoken to us, “Watch and Pray.”
{52b}

(2)  Their faith showed itself also in the recognition of what God had
done for them.  Faith not only asks God’s help, but acknowledges it.  It
gives Him thanks for His action as well as asks Him to act; so when the
danger was past we find Nehemiah ascribing it all to the good hand of God
on his efforts.  He did not say, “When we had defeated their plans,” but
“When God had brought their counsel to nought.” {53}

(3) Faith looks forward to the future.  When the workmen were all at
their posts; when the builders laboured, every one having his sword
girded by his side; when the trumpeter stood by the chief, ready at any
moment to sound the alarm; when the voice of prayer had been heard day
and night all along the line of the rising walls; when all had been done
that man could do—then the heart rose high above all that man had done,
and in calm, confident trust, Nehemiah assures the people, saying, “Our
God shall fight for us.”  He had made preparation, but he trusted to God
for victory.  He was at the head of a feeble people, but he was the
servant of the Most High God.  He knew that the battle was not to the
strong, nor the race to the swift; so he rested his hope on the strong
hand of his God, and in simple faith he trusted Him to give the victory.



THE JOY OF THE LORD


    “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we
    stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so, but
    we glory in tribulations also.”—ROM. v. 2, 3.

THE joy of the Lord is a subject that goes to the heart of many.  Some
are rejoicing in the Lord, while others are longing to be partakers of
it; it is a gift after which their heart is yearning.

Let us consider the real foundation of true, solid, well-founded joy.  In
these two verses there is a description of the joy and its power.  There
is the joy, for “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” and there is
the power of that joy, for it rises above the troubles of life, and we
rejoice “even in tribulation.”  There is, therefore, such a bright hope
of the coming glory, that we may go on our way with a thankful heart,
rejoicing in the Lord; and there is such a manifestation of the love of
Christ in the soul by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the distress of
tribulation is overpowered, and even in the midst of sorrow there may be
an abiding joyfulness in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Observe the foundation of this joy, and see how it is the consequence of
our sure standing in Christ Jesus.  When we rejoice in hope of the glory
of God, and rejoice even in tribulation, this joy is the consequence of a
previous transaction, and the result of our occupying a new position.  We
have had access, or admission, and are now standing in His grace.  It is
the standing in that grace that is the foundation of the joy of hope.
This leads us to the question, “What is the grace?”

The word “grace” has different meanings in Scripture.  Sometimes it means
the inward work of God the Holy Ghost in the soul, as when it says, “Grow
in grace.” {55a}  But this cannot be our standing-ground, for the simple
reason that it is imperfect and variable.  But this is not the only
meaning of the word, or nearly so, for it is used for any great gift of
love and mercy bestowed in God’s free favour on His people.  We have to
consider what is the free gift or favour into which we have had access,
and which is now our standing-ground.  This question the context must
decide; and it seems to me impossible to study that context, without
coming to the conclusion that the grace here referred to is that which
must ever be the real resting place for those who are convinced of sin, a
righteousness imputed in the free grace of God. {55b}

This, then, is the grace in which we stand, the grace of imputation, the
gracious gift of a righteousness reckoned, counted, or imputed to us when
we do not deserve it; the marvellous mercy through which we are accounted
righteous, accepted as righteous, beloved as righteous, and finally saved
as righteous, although we are not really so in fact, and although we are
conscious in our own hearts of matter for the most profound humiliation
before God.  Who can wonder that we rejoice in hope when we are placed in
mercy on such a standing-ground as that?

This, you observe, is a work _for_ us, and not _in_ us, and therefore
never varies.  The work _in_ us is perpetually changing.  It is a
progressive work, and its progress is sometimes much more rapid than at
others.  But the work _for_ us does not go up and down with the work _in_
us; it is unchangeable, like God Himself.  The righteousness imputed is
the righteousness of God, and therefore perfect and unchangeable.  It
changeth not for the simple reason that He changeth not, and therefore
always, in cloud as well as sunshine, in dark days as well as bright, in
the hour of tribulation as well as in the season of unmixed prosperity,
in the times of deepest humiliation as well as in those of emotion and
encouragement, the justified believer may rejoice in Him, and triumph in
the God of his salvation.  It is this that gives its security to hope,
this that makes us sure of its never failing.  If we were relying on all
the varied changes of our own feelings, there might be joy one day and
despair the next; but while we stand in the grace of imputed
righteousness, our hope has a foundation that can never give way, and
therefore we may accept the joy without a fear, and rejoice in hope of
the glory of God.

What is the great principle within the soul which constitutes our
standing in this grace?

To this question we shall find an answer in the words of St. Paul, “Thou
standest by faith.” {56}  And this is exactly what is taught us in this
passage.  In verse 1, we are taught that it is by faith that we are
justified; and then, in verse 2, we learn that it is by faith that we
have access into this grace wherein we stand.  From first to last,
therefore, it is a matter of faith.  The whole secret of our standing,
and of the joy that follows from it, is found in that one word “trust.”
Trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your finished Sacrifice and your living
Lord, and you stand on the rock.  Let your trust rest on anything else,
on your feelings, your thoughts, your experience, your intentions, or
your religious efforts, and you will be no better than men endeavouring
to walk steadily on the waves of the sea.  But trust Christ _as_ you are,
_where_ you are, and that without putting even your own trust between you
and Him, and you may go on your way rejoicing in Him, and need never
cease to give thanks for a foundation so solid and a grace so free.



THE WORK OF THE LORD


    “Be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the
    Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the
    Lord.”—1 COR. xv. 58.

WE have lately studied “the joy of the Lord,” and now I am anxious that
our thoughts should be turned to another subject, which is much more
intimately connected with it than many seem to suppose, that is, the work
of the Lord.  The joy of the Lord imparts strength for service, and the
service of the Lord increases joy.  There is action and reaction between
the two.



WHAT IS MEANT BY THE WORK OF THE LORD?


It is _work_—work with all the self-denial that accompanies steady work.

It is work _for_ the Lord.  When we say that a father works for his
family, or a servant for his master, it does not mean that such an one
simply goes about his own business, but it does mean that he has a
particular person in view, and that he is working for him.  We are such
poor, frail creatures that there is a constant tendency to admit bye
motives in our work.  I know how hard it is to preserve a single eye to
the glory of God.  One’s own reputation and the great pleasure of one’s
own success have a constant tendency to introduce false motives.  What we
want is to lose sight of self altogether, and to remember that if we are
doing the work _of_ the Lord, we are doing it _for_ the Lord.

It is work _from_ the Lord.  It is the work to which the Lord has
appointed each of us.  When God called Barnabus and Paul, He said,
“Separate them for the work whereunto I have called them.” {59a}  Now we
are not called to the Apostleship, but I believe there is not an
individual amongst us who is not called by God to a certain work in His
service.  The Church of God is said to be “compacted by that which every
joint supplieth.” {59b}  There is not, therefore, a joint in the whole
body that is not to supply something.  All who are in Christ Jesus are
the children of God, and all are called to work in His service, the
strong man in the fulness of his strength, or the suffering invalid laid
low with broken health.

This, then, being the character of the work of the Lord, let us turn to
the encouragement which God has given, and the root from which it
springs.



THE ENCOURAGEMENT.


There are some things in our Christian life which we think, some which we
hope, and some which we know.  We know some, for they are assured to us
in God’s word, and we are fully persuaded that His word is true.  Now
here is one of the things we know, know as a matter of certainty without
the possibility of doubt.  We know that our labour is not in vain in the
Lord.  It may often appear to us exceedingly feeble and defective: we may
be ashamed and humbled at its multiplied shortcomings: we may look back
upon it honeycombed, as it were, by mistakes: we may be conscious that we
have left undone those things that we ought to have done, and we may be
painfully aware that nothing has been done as it ought to have been done
for God, but still we are assured that it will not be in vain.  When
Samuel was but a child, “the Lord was with him, and did let none of his
words fall to the ground,” {60a} and we may be sure that He will not let
one word spoken in His name fall to the ground now.  If the Lord is with
you, no one thing that you ever do for Him will be in vain.  You may not
see the fruit of it, or if you do it may be after years of waiting, but
the Lord knows all about it.  He sees exactly what you are doing, or
saying, or giving, or praying, and the book of remembrance is written
before Him.  You yourself may be one of God’s hidden ones, and in the day
when He makes up His jewels, {60b} you may meet then with others, hidden
like yourself, to whom your labour, however feeble, has been blessed in
His mercy.  Cleave, then, to the work of the Lord without wavering.  Let
no discouragements dishearten you, hold steadily on your way, faint yet
pursuing, being perfectly assured that what God has promised He is able
also to perform, and that even your poor service will not be in vain in
the Lord.



THE ROOT FROM WHICH ALL SUCH WORK MUST SPRING.


It is not all kinds of labour to which the promise is attached, for there
is a great deal of labour that is altogether in vain.  “Except the Lord
build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” {60c}  And the
distinction is very clearly taught us here, for the work here spoken of
is a labour “in the Lord.”  It teaches how work is the consequence of
union; that we do not do the work of the Lord in order that by doing it
we may attain to union, but that the union comes first and the work of
the Lord follows as its result.  There will be no fruit on the branch if
there is not first a union with the vine.  There is no hope, therefore,
of any man winning to himself a union with Christ by any amount of
painstaking in work.  If your heart is yearning for that union, you must
accept it as a free gift because Christ Jesus, the Son of God, has
redeemed you by His own most precious blood, and you must do so just as
you are, without waiting for even one more effort in His service.  You
must be “in the Lord” before you can “labour in the Lord,” and that union
must be the free gift of His unmerited grace.  You must be created in Him
unto good works before you will do anything for His glory. {61}



CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE IN THE CONFIRMATION OF FAITH


    “Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings
    will I rejoice.”—PSA. lxiii. 7.

I WISH to speak on the important use of Christian experience in the
confirmation of faith.  I say in the confirmation of faith, for there is
the widest possible difference between confirmation and commencement.
Experience may confirm the faith when it already exists, but the faith
must obviously be there before there can be any experience of its result.

At the outset of our Christian course we have nothing to do but throw
ourselves absolutely in naked trust on the sure promises of the covenant
of God, and rest exclusively on what He has done and promised.  We have
nothing then to do with our own history, our own feelings, or our own
progress, it is Christ and Christ alone on whom the soul must rest for
life.  And so, if we look to the real foundation of faith, it must be to
the last day of our pilgrimage.  It is a fatal-moment for us if we are
led to look away for a single moment from Him.  But at the same time we
must remember that we are not always at the beginning of our Christian
life.  One who has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ and walked with Him for
many years is not in the same position as one who is to-day seeking Him
for the first time.  He has had the experience of the loving-kindness of
the Lord.  He has never found Him to fail in any of the anxieties of his
life, and if he could trust many years ago when he had nothing but the
bare promise, how much more may he trust the Saviour now when the truth
of His word has been tried and tested in all the varied experiences of
life?

The Lord Jesus Christ is described as “a sure foundation;” {63a} sure,
because He is the foundation laid by God; sure, because of His own
eternal Godhead; sure, therefore, as an object of simple trust before a
person has had any experience of His grace.  To the trembling sinner who
has hitherto been a total stranger to Him, and has never known anything
of His love, even to him He is a sure foundation, and though knowing Him
only through the word, that trembling sinner may come to Him and trust.
But according to that same verse He is also a tried foundation.  He has
been tried by the whole church of God for eighteen centuries and has
never once been found to fail any one that has come to Him in faith.  He
has been tried by us who have known Him for the greater part of our
lives, and we are not to ignore all He has done for us, but say, as St.
John did, not merely that we have believed, but that “we have known and
believed the love that God hath towards us.” {63b}

Now this is the principle of the text.  The Psalm was written when David
was in great trouble, having taken flight from Saul in the wilderness of
Judah.  He was there hidden in such caves as Adullam, and cut off from
the sanctuary of God.  But it is a very cheerful and thankful Psalm.  He
was not downhearted because of his troubles, but he had such an assurance
of the loving-kindness of the Lord that his heart was full of praise.  He
could praise Him, and that with joyful lips, even in the wilderness.  The
reason was that he could trust Him, and though he was only a young man
his trust had been confirmed by experience.  He had been in difficulty
almost the whole time since his call, but he had found a strong arm with
him all the way, and therefore he said, “Because thou has been my help,
therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.”  In this verse
there are two things to be observed—



I.  THE THANKFUL RECOGNITION OF HELP ALREADY GIVEN.


The Lord had helped him through many difficulties and he thankfully
recognized the help.  We do not know to what particular act of help he
referred.  It may have been to his victory over Goliath, or to the escape
from the javelin of Saul.  Or it may be to the daily, hourly help given
to his own soul in all the difficulties of his situation; to that help
which finds no place in history, but which is the unceasing source of
life and strength to the child of God.  But whatever was the peculiar
character of the help, it is perfectly clear that it was accepted and
recognized.  He asked for help, he found it, he acknowledged it, and he
was thankful for it.

Let us learn the lesson that we should not be always praying for help,
and fearing to acknowledge it when given.  It is our privilege to ask for
the gift, but it is also both our privilege and duty to acknowledge it.



II.  THE JOYFUL ASSURANCE FOR THE FUTURE.


He knew that he believed in a God that changeth not, just as we believe
that the Lord Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,”
{64} and the result was the assurance that He who had helped him thus far
would help him to the end.  He knew that his God would not change, and
therefore he was happy and confident though he was in “a dry and thirsty
land.” {65a}  His joy did not depend on circumstances, but on God, and
being confident in His unchanging grace he could be happy anywhere.  He
used to delight in the Sanctuary, and we read in verse 2 how he had there
seen in his own soul God’s power and glory.  But the same Lord who had
helped him in the Sanctuary would help him also in the cave, and
therefore he was not an unhappy man even in the wilderness, but he said,
“Because Thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise
Thee.”

And this was no new principle in his mind, for we find him acting on it
when he was quite a youth.  It was the principle that carried him into
the conflict with Goliath, for when Saul dissuaded him from the attempt,
he said, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out
of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this
Philistine.” {65b}  Thus the recognition of past help ought to lead to
confident trust.  If we have found help actually given, if we have reason
to believe that God is helping now, we may boldly look forward into the
future, and be perfectly confident that He will help to the end.



THE COMING OF THE LORD


   THE PRACTICAL EFFECT OF THIS BLESSED HOPE ON THE LIFE AND CHARACTER

    “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord
    draweth nigh.”—ST. JAMES v. 8.

THE hope of the near approach of the Lord’s coming should lead us to sit
light to the world and the things of it.  There is no greater temptation
besetting our path than that of becoming entangled in the things of the
world.  We are for ever spinning cobwebs for our own bondage, and being
then caught in our own web.  Hence the importance of the weaning power of
the blessed hope of the near coming of our Lord and Saviour.  This
applies in sorrow.

There were sorrows in the days of St. Paul, just as there are now, and he
never taught us not to weep.  What he did teach was that we “should not
sorrow as those that have no hope.”  The character of the sorrow may be
changed.  And what was the power that should thus change the character of
grief?  The next verse supplies the answer.  “For if we believe that
Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will
God bring with Him.” {66}  We may look forward, therefore, to His speedy
return, when the graves of those who are in Christ shall open, and when
all sorrow will be lost for eternity in the blessed privilege of being
“ever with the lord.” {67a}  Is not such a hope enough to change the
character of grief?

This blessed hope changes also the character of our joy.

Just as it gives a tone to sorrow, so also it does to joy.  It makes it
sober and solid.  It gives it a quiet, peaceful, abiding character.  Turn
to the words of St. Paul.  “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say,
Rejoice.” {67b}  And observe the verse that follows: “Let your moderation
be known unto all men.  The Lord is at hand.”  Let your joy be the sober
joy of men who believe that the coming of the Lord is at hand; the calm,
well-assured, abiding joy of those who, being in the Lord, are persuaded
that they will be with the Lord for ever.

And the same effect will follow with reference to all our possessions.

Let no one suppose we are not to prize those precious gifts which God has
given us.  Ought we to think lightly of money, time, influence, power?
By no means; but if we believe that the coming of the Lord is near we
must sit light to it all, for it will all soon give place to the glories
of His kingdom.  Remember St. Paul’s thrilling words: “The time is
short,” {67c} and the exhortation that follows to “use this world, as not
abusing it.”

If we believe that the Lord’s coming is near we must wake up and trim our
lamps.

We must never forget that real, true believers may grow cold, and dull,
and sleepy.  Thus even the wise virgins were asleep when the Bridegroom
came.  But they were thoroughly prepared, so they were up in a moment
when they heard the cry, and, having trimmed their lamps, were ready.
Now, the thought of His appearing should have this effect on ourselves.
Who is there amongst us that does not want to be quickened; to be aroused
to fresh energy for God; to have the soul filled with a holy fervour, and
the whole heart glowing with the love of Christ?  Who is there that
should not desire to respond with every faculty he possesses to the
stirring appeal of St. Paul: “And that, knowing the time, that now it is
high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than
when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” {68a}
Shall we sleep on as if the old world were going on for ever?  Do we
really believe that “the Bridegroom cometh,” {68b} and shall we not trim
our lamps without one moment’s delay in order that when He comes He may
find them burning brightly to His glory?

If we are looking for the speedy coming of the Lord, it should lead to a
calm, happy, peaceful hope in the midst of the turmoils of the latter
days.

There is nothing to lead us to expect a calm termination to the present
state of things.  Our Lord when He comes will come riding, as it were, on
the whirlwind and the storm.  It is a very common thing to find a bar
with heavy breakers on it at the mouth of the finest harbours, and so we
must be prepared for a stormy sea as we enter the haven of rest.  Our
Lord taught this very clearly when He said, “There shall be signs in the
sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of
nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.” {68c}  And now
observe the effect of these events on different characters.  Through the
world at large they produce what may be called a panic—“Men’s hearts
failing them for fear.” {69a}  But how is it to be with the people of
God?  Are their hearts to fail them for fear?  No, for we read, “When
these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your
heads.” {69b}  They are not to be bowed down, but to hold their head
erect, and with a confident spirit to look up full of hope.  And why?
What is it that is to make so vast a difference between the two
characters?  How can we explain the contrast?  It is all explained in the
latter part of that verse—“For your redemption draweth nigh.”  It is
perfectly clear that by redemption is here meant the final deliverance,
for in the previous verse {69c} we read of the final coming of the
Deliverer.  That calm peace, therefore, is the blessed result of a
blessed hope.  God’s people will know that the Deliverer is at hand, and
therefore will not be afraid.  They will believe God’s Holy Word, and
therefore what alarms others will cheer them.  The same storm which sinks
the great ironclads outside will bring their little bark into harbour.
They will know what it all means, and, with God’s Word in their hand,
they will know who is reigning, and will see in all that is frightening
others the predicted signs of His near approach.



ONE WORD IN CONCLUSION.


The word “redemption” has a double sense in common use.  It is sometimes
used for atonement or propitiation simply, and sometimes for the great
deliverance which is the consequence of the great propitiation.  It is
clear that in this passage it is used for deliverance.  But another thing
is equally clear, namely, this—that we shall never be able to rest in the
hope of the deliverance unless we are first taught to rest for
forgiveness on the completed propitiation.  Redemption by power is the
consequence of redemption by blood.  It is the redemption by power of
which the Lord said “He draweth nigh;” but we shall never be able to lift
up our heads, and look up in joy to the prospect, unless we first know in
our own souls the unspeakable blessing of that redemption by blood which
has long since been completed for ever.  It is only when we know Jesus
Christ and Him crucified that we can look up in calm, peaceful confidence
to Jesus Christ and Him glorified.



“WITH” AND “BY”


    “And when they were come, and had gathered the Church together, they
    rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the
    door of faith onto the Gentiles.”—ACTS xiv. 27.

THERE are few institutions of greater antiquity than the missionary
meeting.  It is truly apostolic in its origin.  The first such meeting of
which we read was held at Antioch after the return of St. Paul from his
first missionary journey.  It was from Antioch he set off, having been
commended by the brethren to the grace of God; and it was at Antioch,
after his return, that he gathered together the Church and rehearsed to
them all that God had done with them in his journey.  This is the great
subject of his address, and will suggest three subjects of inquiry for
ourselves.



I.  WHAT HAD BEEN DONE?


In the first place, the door of faith had been opened to the Gentiles.
Surely by “the door of faith” we must understand that “new and living
way” of which we read in Hebrews. {71}  And what is that way?  Is not
this explained by the previous verse, “Having, therefore, boldness to
enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.”  It is the free access to
the throne of Grace through the finished, final propitiation, there
described as “the blood of Jesus.”  When He died, the veil of the temple
was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the mercy-seat was laid
open to the sinner drawing near in faith, and the invitation was
proclaimed to all.  The throne of righteousness became the throne of
mercy, and the throne of judgment became approachable even to the sinner,
for it was transformed into a throne of grace.

This is the door of faith that had been opened to the Gentiles, and it is
very difficult for us to realize all that was involved in such a fact.
There was a middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile which kept
them as wide asunder as if there had been no common Saviour.  But now St.
Paul reported that the middle wall had been broken down. {72a}  Every
stone of it had been swept away, and, according to the covenant of God,
all were invited as one flock around one Shepherd.

But this was not all that had been done.  The great work of that
missionary journey was the turning of the hearts of both Jews and
Gentiles to enter in by that open door.  It is one thing to set a door
open before a person, but often a much more difficult thing to induce him
to enter in.  Now the great result of this journey was that many precious
souls were brought in through the open door, and in Christ Jesus were
saved.  This was the work of which St. Paul gave an account on his return
to Antioch.  If he mentioned individuals he doubtless told them of
Sergius Paulus, the Roman pro-consul at Paphos, that “prudent man,” {72b}
one of the first converts given to the Apostle.  Then, again, he
doubtless told them of the great multitude both of the Jews and also of
the Greeks in Iconium who believed. {72c}  And if he were asked as to the
reality of the work in their souls, he doubtless told them of the
beautiful character of the Christians in the other Antioch, Antioch of
Pisidia, of whom it is said, “the disciples were filled with joy, and
with the Holy Ghost.” {73}

They had, indeed, entered in by the open door.  They had tasted the joy
of the living way, they had been brought under the shadow of the
mercy-seat.  They had sat down under His shadow with great delight, and
had found the fruit sweet to their taste.  So marvellous had been the
change that the very men who before this memorable journey had been
living, some in Jewish hostility, and some in heathen abomination, were
now happy, holy, thankful believers, and were actually filled with the
Holy Ghost.  We see, then, what had been done.  The next question is—



II.  WHO WAS THE DOER?


St. Paul and St. Barnabas were the principal agents, and of these St.
Paul was the chief speaker, but it was not he who changed the hearts or
filled the disciples with joy and with the Holy Ghost.  So he did not
tell what _he_ had done, but what God had done.  The drawing of the
sinner, whether Jew or Gentile, into the new or living way was a Divine
act.  To open the heart required a Divine power as much as to open the
door.  It is important for us clearly to bear in mind this principle,
that the power to enter in is of itself the gift of God—that we must
trust Him not only to save us when we have entered in, but to enable us
to enter in; not only to show mercy on us when we have come near to Him,
but to draw us near by His own Spirit.



III.  IN WHAT WAY DID THE LORD MAKE USE OF HUMAN AGENCY?


There are two expressions employed which throw great light on the
subject.  In this verse we read of the things which God had done _with_
them, and the same expression occurs in Acts xv. 4.  But if we pass on to
Acts xv., we find it stated that “God had wrought upon the Gentiles _by_
them.” {74a}  The one expression implies companionship, the other
instrumentality.  Consider them separately.

(1)  “With.”

The idea is that throughout the journey our Lord was literally fulfilling
His promise.  “I am with you alway.” {74b}  They went out to preach in
His name and He went with them, as their constant, never-failing, though
invisible, companion and friend.  Thus, while they were acting, He was
acting also.  The two were acting together, and so fulfilling the one
purpose of God.  The action of the Lord was giving effect to the action
of the preacher, though in some cases it was quite independent of it.
Take the case of Lydia as an illustration. {74c}  St. Paul preached to
that little company assembled at the place of prayer by the riverside at
Phillipi.  There was the action of the preacher.  But now look at the
action of the Lord working with him.  By His fore-seeing providence He
had brought Lydia from her home at Thyatira, and by His guiding Spirit
had brought St. Paul from his work in Asia Minor.  It was He that brought
them both to the same spot on that Sabbath morning.  Then, again, while
St. Paul was preaching the Lord was acting, for He was acting with His
servant, first by the preparatory leading of His providence, and
afterwards by the heart-opening movement of the Holy Ghost

(2)  And this leads me to the other expression, “_by_.”  This expresses
something different to companionship, for it teaches that in thus drawing
sinners to Himself He makes use of men as instruments.  In the case of
Lydia the Lord opened her heart, but the things which were spoken by St.
Paul were the instrument which God employed to lead her to the faith.  It
was not without instrumentality, but by it, that God acted.  It is
important to bear this in mind—that human instrumentality is not in
antagonism to faith.  We must remember the “by” as well as the “with,”
and that when God has given means, we do not honour Him by neglecting or
ignoring them.  St. Paul was most anxious to urge on the Corinthians that
it was God alone who gave the increase, but while he did so he was not
deterred from adding that he had planted and Apollos watered. {75}  We
know that God is a Sovereign, and that He, if He pleased, could gather in
the whole company of His elect without the use of any one man to work for
Him; but we know also that “by us” the preaching is to be fully known,
and we are fully persuaded that if we are to look for a harvest we must
both plant and water.



THE STIRRING OF THE SPIRIT


    “And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of
    Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of
    Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the
    people; and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of Hosts,
    their God.”—HAG. i. 14.

LET US consider this stirring of the will, and then the great need of it
even amongst the faithful people of God.

I.  We read a great deal in Scripture of a movement in the will, as we
know in practical life, how we ourselves are moved, or aroused on many
occasions.  We know what it is to be like Peter, who was asleep in the
prison till the Angel of the Lord “smote him on the side, and raised him
up, saying, Arise up quickly.” {76a}  We are often aroused to make an
_effort_ which we never thought of before, and our whole soul is on fire
to be working with a holy enthusiasm for God.

Now this stirring of the spirit is the act of God Himself.  I am quite
aware that there are passages in which man is described as stirring
himself, as for example, “There is none that calleth upon Thy name, that
stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee.” {76b}  But such an expression
is the description of the outward effect, and not of the inward movement
of the soul, as is proved by that very text, which gives us the reason
for the absence of any such stirring, “Thou hast hid Thy face from us.”
It was because He had hidden His face that no one was stirred to lay hold
on His grace.  Thus St. Paul teaches us that it is God Himself who
worketh on the will.  He urges the little flock at Philippi to be more
diligent in his absence than they were in his presence, {77a} and in the
next verse he gives us the reason that “It is God who worketh in you both
to will and to do of His good pleasure.”  So in this passage, when
Zerubbabel was aroused to a new action it was the Lord who stirred his
spirit, and who produced such a strong, deep feeling in his soul that he
could not rest without making a fresh effort for the Lord.  This stirring
was the blessed result of the Holy Spirit’s action.  Oh, that we had more
of it amongst ourselves!

But while it is the work of the Holy Spirit, we shall find that, as a
general rule, He makes use of means.  Of course, if He pleases, He may
Himself speak to the soul in the way of direct personal communication,
and so arouse the heart and conscience without the aid of any human
instrumentality.  But in most cases He makes use of means.

Sometimes men are stirred by the sight of evil, as St. Paul was stirred
in spirit by the sight of the idolatry at Athens. {77b}  And it does seem
strange that God’s faithful people can sit so still as they do, and look
on so quietly on the sin that abounds around them.  How is it that the
whole soul does not burn within us with a longing desire to be at work
for God?

Sometimes it is through the power of the ministry.  It was so with
Zerubbabel, of whom it is said that the Lord stirred his spirit.  The
means employed in his case was the preaching of the two prophets Haggai
and Zechariah.  Sometimes God raises up great preachers whose office it
seems to be to awaken nations.  Such were Whitfield and the Wesleys.
Such was Luther at the time of the Reformation, and such were Haggai and
Zechariah after the return of the captives from Babylon.  It was through
them that the fire was lighted in the soul of Zerubbabel.  Their burning
words stirred his spirit, and he threw himself with a holy zeal into the
service of the Lord.

Sometimes it is by the example and influence of others, as “iron
sharpeneth iron.” {78a}  There is nothing more infectious than character.
There is a certain atmosphere surrounding each of us, and it has its
influence on all who come near us.  The idle man makes others idle, the
corrupt man makes others corrupt; so the holy man wins others to
holiness, and the man of Christian enthusiasm will warm up those who come
in contact with him.

Sometimes He does it by stirring our nest.  This is what He did for
Israel in Egypt.  They had begun to settle down content with their
captivity.  They had their flesh-pots, their melons, and their cucumbers,
and they did not care to be unsettled; so God stirred them up by
oppression.  This is the process described in Moses’ song, “As an eagle
stirreth up her nest.” {78b}  The young eagles, being comfortable in
their nest, have no desire to launch forth into the untried experiment of
flight.  So the parent bird stirs up the nest, and by means of that
stirring compels them to a move.  Is it not often just the same with us?
We are so fond of our nests, so apt to settle down quietly, forgetful of
that which is to come.  So God in mercy stirs the nest.  The heart is
saddened, but the very stirring may be God’s appointed instrument for
waking up a new hope, a new longing for the second advent, and a
dependence never known before on His own grace, and love, and perfect
sufficiency.

By whatever means the Lord does it, we must never forget that it is His
own divine act of mercy and grace.  No sight of evil, no preaching, no
example, no chastening can produce the result.  It is God the Holy Ghost
that stirs the spirit.

II.  Consider the need of this stirring amongst the faithful people of
God.

It might be supposed that the true and faithful people of God would not
require it, and that they would be irresistibly drawn on by the
constraining power of the love of Christ.  But this is not the teaching
of Scripture, and I am sure it is not the conclusion from experience.  We
must never forget that the wise virgins went to sleep.  Nor must we even
lose sight of those thrilling words addressed by St. Paul to those in
Rome whom he describes as “beloved of God, and called to be saints,”
{79a} when in the prospect of the second Advent he said to them, “Now it
is high time to awake out of sleep.” {79b}  Had they not, you may say,
been already aroused from sleep?  Had they not been awakened from the
sleep of death, and brought into a new life in Christ Jesus?  How, then,
should it be high time for them to awake out of sleep?  Were they not
already the “beloved of God”?

Now, this brings us exactly to the point; to the great need of Divine
stirring, even for those who have already been awakened into a new life
in Christ Jesus.  Turn to the Song of Solomon, and you will find the
whole thing explained.  In ch. v. the Bridegroom is described as
returning home at night, and, knocking at the door of his home, calls to
the Bride within, and says, “Open to me.” {80}  Now what is her state of
mind when she hears His knock and listens to His voice? “I sleep, but my
heart waketh.”  Have we not there the exact description of very common
Christian life?  How many are there still sleeping, though they hear the
knock and their heart waketh?  They are neither fully asleep nor fully
awake.  They are awake enough to hear the voice, but too sleepy to act on
it.  But we cannot be satisfied with this half and half condition.  The
Bride in the Song of Solomon was so long in arousing herself, that when
at length she did so, it was too late.  In ver. 6 she tells her sad, sad
story.  “I opened to my Beloved, but my Beloved had withdrawn Himself and
was gone.”  Should not such a description arouse us all?  Most truly may
it be said that He is standing at our own doors both knocking and
calling.  Sin is raging, error is spreading, misery is abounding, hell is
filling; but, thanks be to God, Christ Jesus is saving, and shall His own
chosen people be sleeping quietly, seeking their own ease, and sitting
down content if only they can entertain a well-grounded hope that the
heavy burden of their own sin has been blotted out through His most
precious blood.  “Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy
faithful people.”



A WILLING SERVICE


    “Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the
    Lord?”—1 CHRON. xxix. 5.

THE occasion was a very solemn one.  It was the last act of David’s
reign.  He had long desired to build a temple for the glory of God, but
he was not allowed to carry out his wish.  So he collected the necessary
materials, and at length, when he had decided to abdicate in favour of
Solomon, he called an assembly and declared Solomon, who was still young
and tender, to be his successor, then handed over to him the plans which
he had prepared for the Temple, and concluded with a solemn charge. {81}

Having thus ended what may be termed the official business of his life,
the aged king proceeded to address the congregation.  Let us study four
things in that address; his question, his thanksgiving, his prayer, and
his final appeal.



HIS QUESTION


He told them how he was passing away, and how the work was great, so he
asked them a question which may be well put to every congregation in
every age, “Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto
the Lord?”

Now, we hear a great deal in these days of consecration.  The idea of
consecration is not a new thing in the Church of God, and I am sure that
we want more of the true spirit of it in our own hearts.  There is such a
thing as consecration of heart, and consecration of service.  The
consecration of heart is the surrender of the whole man with the
affections, the powers, and the strong will to the Lord.  The
consecration of service is the dedication of all our active powers to his
work.  When David said, “I am thine,” {82a} it was the consecration of
heart, and when Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me,” {82b} it was the
consecration of service.  Now, it was the consecration of service for
which David appealed, and it is this practical consecration of service on
which we are dependent for the work in a parish.  Who is willing to
consecrate his service?  I cannot see into the secrets of the hearts, but
I know who ought to be willing—all those who believe in the words of our
Blessed Saviour, “For their sakes I consecrate Myself.” {82c}  Did He,
the spotless Son of God, consecrate Himself to be the atoning sacrifice
for us?  And if we believe that, can we doubt for one moment who it is
that should be willing to consecrate his service to Him?  Redeemed
sinner, is it not you?  Pardoned believer, is it not you?  Are you ready
to fall at His feet and say, “Here am I; let me be Thine.  Here is my
skill: use it.  Here is my intellect: use it.  Here is my power of
speech: use it.  Here is my money: use it.  Here is all, all I have and
all I am: let it all be Thine own, and help me to employ it for Thy
glory”?



HIS PRAISE


David’s question fell on willing hearts, and there was a wonderful
response to his appeal.  Gold, silver, and precious stones were poured
into the treasury, and the willing heart with which all was done was
beautiful.  It was not done grudgingly or of necessity, but with a happy,
joyous, thankful spirit, so that the old man’s heart was gladdened, and
“David the King rejoiced with great joy.” {83a}  It was this joyous
spirit that called forth his praise.  When he saw the blessed result of
his appeal he did not lay it down to his personal influence, or to his
own persuasive power, but he stood up and blessed the Lord.  He was too
old for government, but he was not too old for praise.  His last words
from the throne were those of praise and prayer.  His joy ran straight
into thanksgiving, and in this thanksgiving two principles were
conspicuous, he gave all the glory to God, and he acknowledged himself
and his people to be utterly unworthy of the sacred privilege of this
happy service.  This is the true view of service and of gifts.  When God
calls us to work for Him, or to give for Him, we should not regard it as
a burden laid upon us, but as an honour to which we are invited, an
honour that angels themselves might covet.  This was the spirit of David
when he said “What am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to
offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of Thee, and of
Thine own have we given Thee.” {83b}  And this should be our own spirit
in all service and all gifts for such a Lord.  We do not want to regard
it as a yoke, a necessity, a heavy task imposed on us by God; but as an
honour, a privilege, a happy, loving service of the King of kings, for
which the best amongst us is utterly unworthy.



HIS PRAYER


After a time his praise ran into prayer.  This is just as it ought to be,
for praise should encourage prayer, as prayer should always lead to
praise.  Thus the loving heart should pass backwards and forwards from
one to the other, and the two should be so blended that when we are
engaged by the one the other should never be out of sight.

Observe the prayer in ver. 18, and remember the circumstances.  It was a
moment of wonderful national enthusiasm at the commencement of a great
national work.  Their hearts were filled with joy and they were ready for
anything.  Now, what was the danger?  What would be the danger to
ourselves in our own day?  Would it not be decay, a gradual dying off of
our first zeal, a chill in the first love as there was at Ephesus? {84}
What David prayed for, therefore, was continuance, or perseverance.  In
short he prayed against declension from their first love, for look at his
words in ver. 18.  For “prepare” the marginal reading is “stablish.”  And
now you see the point of the prayer, “Keep this _for ever_ in the
imagination of the thoughts of the heart of Thy people, and _establish_
their heart unto Thee.”  What an insight it gives both as to our danger
and our hope.  How it shows us our need of being kept alive in our first
love, and teaches us that we must not be trusting to the privileges of
past experience, or the fact of past consecration, but that we need the
perpetual action of the Holy Spirit in keeping His grace for ever in the
imagination of the thoughts of the heart.

And where are we to look for this preservation?  Do we not learn that our
hearts are like leaky vessels, and the brightest, holiest and most joyous
of believers requires the daily power of the Holy Spirit, not merely to
stop the leak, but to fill the vessel?



THE FINAL APPEAL


The old man finished his prayer.  In it he spoke alone.  He was, as it
were, the mouthpiece of his people.  But that was not enough.  It was not
sufficient that he should speak on their behalf, but they must praise God
for themselves.  So having been into the very presence chamber of God in
prayer, he came out, as it were to the assembled multitude, and said to
the vast throng, “Now bless the Lord your God.”  Praise was the climax of
the transaction, and praise the last act of David’s reign.

Now may there be the spirit of that remarkable day amongst ourselves.
Trace it all the way through, remember the consecration, the liberality,
the joy, the praise, the prayer, and the final outburst of congregational
worship.  May God breathe on us the same spirit.  May there be the same
consecration of service, the same willing offerings, the same joyous
praise, and the same thankful prayer for a holy perseverance unto the
end.  And, in conclusion, may I not say to you what David said to the
congregation, “Now bless the Lord your God.”



FEAR NOT


    “Fear thou not; 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.”—ISA. xli. 10.

WHEN we observe how frequently God says to us “Fear not,” we may be quite
sure that there is a great deal in common life to occasion fear.  The
frequent recurrence of the exhortation in all parts of Scripture teaches
us, that through the whole range of Scriptural history there had been
that all around God’s people which, without the Lord’s help, must have
been sure to make the heart afraid.

You will observe in our text that He does not bid us fear not because He
undertakes to remove all danger.  What He says is, that when things arise
that may justly alarm us, we need not fear.  “Fear not, _for_ I am with
thee,” (observe the “_for_”).  If fear is to be really overcome, it must
be by the eye being kept fixed on God and His promises.

This verse contains two assurances and three promises; assurances of what
He is to us now, and promises of what He undertakes to do for us.



THE ASSURANCES


“I am with thee.”  “I am thy God.”  It is interesting to observe how the
different portions of Scripture correspond with one another.  They are
all inspired by one Spirit, and all speak one truth.  So when I turn to
the concluding description of the blessedness of the Heavenly
inheritance, I find just the same assurance, “God Himself shall be with
them and be their God.”  {87}  He does not promise to be nearer to His
people, even in the heavenly rest, than He declares Himself to be now,
when we are in the midst of our struggle upon earth.  He promises _then_
to be with us and to be our God, and He assures us in the text that He is
just the same _now_.

The words of the assurance, “I am with thee,” imply both reconciliation
and companionship.  Reconciliation, for He is not against us, but with
us.  Not separated by the barrier of unforgiven sin, but so completely
reconciled, the law being satisfied that every barrier is broken down for
ever, and He is altogether on our side.

Companionship, for as a reconciled and loving Father He never for a
moment leaves His child, by night or by day, in joy or in sorrow; in
active work, or in quiet submission; in the ministry at home or in the
distant work of missions.  Wherever His people are, and in whatever
circumstances, there is He with them as their Father, their Friend, their
Companion, their Helper, their God.

For He also says, “I am thy God.”  He is not merely with us, but with us
in all the omnipotence of Godhead.  An earthly friend may fail in helping
us; but when He is with us as our God He will never fail.  When He says,
“I am thy God,” He clearly means that He has chosen us to be His people,
a peculiar people unto Himself; and that, having done so, He acts as God,
on our behalf, governing, guiding, preserving, saving, and finally
gathering to His own presence in His kingdom.



THE PROMISES


(1)  “I will strengthen thee.”

Into whatever position He places us, for that He undertakes to give us
the needful strength.  If He calls us to be still and suffer, He will
give strength for suffering; if to go forth in His name and labour in His
service, He will give strength for activity; and in the holy warfare
which we are all called to wage with indwelling sin, strength to
overcome.  And you must notice that, when He promises to strengthen, He
describes an imparted power.  He does not speak of Himself as acting for
you externally, as when He accounts you righteous; but within you,
imparting power, and so enabling you to act for Him.  The promise of God
in Scripture is that He will strengthen us, or, in other words, that He
will impart a power of action in His service.

(2)  “I will help thee.”

The same lesson respecting man’s activity is taught when He promises to
help.  There is a great difference between strengthening and helping.  To
strengthen is an inward work, the gift of an inward power.  To help is an
external work.  I may help a lame man to walk, though I cannot strengthen
his limb.  But help implies activity on the part of those who receive it.
God does not help us to do nothing.  He helps us to be patient, loving,
gentle, sweet-tempered.  He helps us to be diligent and active in His
service; but He does not help us to sit still and be passive.  Help
implies exertion.  If He strengthens us by the Holy Ghost in the inner
man, and if He undertakes to help us in every struggle against sin, it is
our privilege to accept His promise, and press on, assured of victory.

(3)  “I will uphold thee.”

These words appear to convey the idea of danger.  We are walking in
slippery places, and with fearful falls on every hand, so that we require
not merely a clear eye to guide us, but a strong hand to hold us.  In
every step of our way we require to be upheld.  In every moment of our
lives we require to be held up by one who sees all our danger, who knows
the path perfectly well, who can hold us with so strong a grasp that
nothing can pluck us out of His hand, and who, according to the language
of St. Jude, is “able to keep us from falling.” {89a}

It is this perpetual and final preservation that is secured to us in the
third promise; and I would have you most particularly observe that it is
not with the right hand of His mercy, or the right hand of His love, or
of His compassion, or even of His power, but the right hand of His
righteousness.  And why is this?  Because this grace is the result of the
covenant.  By that covenant His people are given to the Lord Jesus that
they may be saved.  In fulfilling that covenant He has shed His own most
precious blood for us, to make atonement for our sin.  And the result is,
that as, according to St. John, “He is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins,” {89b} so, also, is He faithful and just to uphold us against a
fall.

But here, I know, a question will arise.  This is God’s promise, but is
it ever realized?  It is very beautiful in Scripture, but do we meet with
it in practical life?  Are these gifts of God really given?  Is this
presence of God really displayed? this upholding power really
experienced?  Let us consider these five points and see.

“I am with thee.”  Has this been practically experienced?  Look at the
words of David in the prospect of his dying hour, “Thou art with me,”
{90a} and, again, “O God, Thou art my God.” {90b}

“I will strengthen thee.”  Remember how Daniel realized its fulfilment
when he said, “Let my Lord speak; for Thou hast strengthened me.” {90c}

“I will help thee.”  Remember David’s words, “My heart trusted in Him,
and I am helped.” {90d}

“I will uphold thee.”  But will He really uphold us through trials and
temptations?  Will He really keep us fast in the right hand of His
righteousness, and that when our faith is weak?  Turn to Asaph’s
experience.  He says of himself, “As for me, my feet were almost gone; my
steps had well-nigh slipped.” {90e}  But now look at the upholding arm.
“Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right
hand.” {90f}  So, then, this promise has been practically fulfilled.  God
has been true to His word, and men have found Him so.  His truth has
never failed, and will He fail us?  Will he fail the weakest amongst us?
Will He cease to uphold His people?  Let us trust Him.  We are not worthy
to do so.  If He had treated us as we have deserved, He would long since
have cast us off.  But He has not treated us as we have deserved.  He has
loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, so we may trust
Him, and leave all in His care; and of this we may rest perfectly
assured, that the strong arm will never give way.



THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE


    “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
    Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

    “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
    and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”—PSA. xxiii. 5,
    6.

IT is a very delightful thing to be able to say “Surely” when we look
forward.  Now, this sureness for the future depends on our present
relationship to God, and the confidence expressed in verse 6 is the
blessed result of the unspeakably precious gifts described in the earlier
verses of the Psalm.  It depends on the connection between the present
and the future, a connection resulting from the unchangeableness in the
character of God.  In order, therefore, to understand the last verse
which relates to the future, let us study the one preceding it, which
describes the present.  We may thus combine the present and the future,
and I think the result will be what our Church describes as a “sure and
certain hope.”



THE PRESENT


As I have just said, our confidence for the future depends on our present
relationship to God; and, accordingly, the Psalm opens with the words,
“The Lord is my Shepherd.”  The holy relationship between the Shepherd
and the flock is described as being already established, and by both
parties recognized, and all that follows is the result of that
relationship.  We have not time to study the whole Psalm; but look at the
three results taught us in verse 5.


I.  ALL WANTS ARE SUPPLIED.


Even if there are enemies, they cannot interfere with the full and sure
supply which God has provided for His servant.  When he reaches the end
of his journey, he will find that the Lord has prepared a place for his
rest; and now that he is in the midst of it, he may rejoice in that the
same most blessed Saviour has prepared a table for his daily supply.

This refers, doubtless, to our daily wants, and it describes His
fulfilment of our supplication in the Lord’s Prayer.  We pray day by day,
“Give us this day our daily bread;” and when we really enter into the
spirit of this Psalm, we as much as say that the prayer is answered, the
bread provided, and the table spread.

And may we not apply it still more to the bread of life?  Is it not our
sacred privilege, when the soul is hungered, to feed even on Him; when
the soul is athirst, to drink of the pure river of the water of life?
And are there not many amongst us who know, by their own experience, the
truth of the promise, “They shall be abundantly satisfied?” {92}


II.  THE SPIRIT IS REFRESHED.


This is taught in the words, “Thou anointest my head with oil.”  The
words refer to the custom of anointing the weary man with ointment or
oil.  It was poured sometimes on the feet and sometimes on the head.  The
object in both cases was the same, namely, refreshment; and surely we
must thankfully acknowledge that our Heavenly Father does not merely give
us the bare necessities of existence, but softens, refreshes, and cheers
the spirit.  He prepares not the table only, but the joy.  “He giveth us
richly all things to enjoy.” {93a}


III.  THE CUP OVERFLOWS.


The mercies are so rich, the grace so abundant, the loving-kindness so
bountiful, the living fountain so free, that the little cup of human
capacity cannot hold it all, and it runneth over.  God describes His
people as not merely satisfied, but abundantly satisfied; and speaks of
the Holy Spirit as not merely bestowed, but as “shed on us abundantly.”
{93b}  Why, then, are we content with a little water hardly perceptible
at the bottom of our little cup?  Stephen was “full of faith and of the
Holy Ghost,” {93c} and we are told to be “filled with the Spirit;” {93d}
why, then, rest content with only a few drops in our own soul while there
is the deep, broad river of the water of life able to fill, to
overflowing, every vessel that can be found to receive the free supply?
Why do we not realize more the truth of the promise, “Open thy mouth
wide, and I will fill it”? {93e}

So much, then, for the present.  A table prepared, a head anointed, a cup
running over.  These are present gifts—the present and indescribable
privileges of those whose joy it is to be able to say, “The Lord is my
Shepherd.”



THE FUTURE


Let us pass on to the future as taught in verse 6.  We may observe two
things—


I.  THE ASSURANCE.


“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”  The
idea seems to be that, in the poetry of this beautiful Psalm, Goodness
and Mercy are represented as two persons, just as we find first Mercy and
Truth as two persons meeting each other in Christ Jesus, and then
Righteousness and Peace, two other persons, kissing each other in Him.
{94a}  So here we have the two persons: Goodness, the bearer of every
gift that can possibly be required, and Mercy dealing most graciously
even with sin; the two following the servant of the Lord, and never
leaving him all the way through.  And you may observe they _follow_ him,
so that he does not always see them, and may not even know they are
there.  He may sometimes imagine that he is forsaken and alone, but he is
strangely mistaken, for Goodness and Mercy are close behind, the one to
supply his need, and the other to deal graciously even with his sin.

If we are in Christ Jesus, we may be as sure of the future as of the
past.  We may be perfectly certain of the truth of the words of the Good
Shepherd, “They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out
of my hand.” {94b}  That promise is so sure that it can never fail, that
hand so strong that all the powers of hell cannot pluck the weakest
little one from its grasp, that heart so true that we may be perfectly
certain He will never abandon one whom He has called by the Holy Ghost
into fellowship with Himself.


II.  THE DETERMINATION.


“I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”  David delighted in the
house of God; and clearly we must explain these words as referring to the
holy worship of the sanctuary.  But in order to enter into the full
spirit of the passage, we must rise from the Church on earth to the
sanctuary in heaven; to the heavenly home and the presence chamber of
God.  There, indeed, is the table spread, there is the anointing oil,
there the cup runneth over; and now, through the rest of our pilgrimage,
though the journey may possibly be through the Vale of Baca, {95a} though
sometimes the soul may be bowed down, and that even when the heart is
fixed, yet in the midst of it all, and through it all, we may live in a
close intimacy with Him.  We may quietly rest in His love, we may dwell
in Him and He in us; and while He gives the gracious promise, “Him that
cometh to Me I will in no wise _cast_ out,” {95b} we may resolve, God
helping us, that we will never _go_ out, and that, to the last day of our
lives, we will hold fast by Him, till at length the veil shall be
withdrawn, and the heavenly home open before us, and we realize what it
is, in the highest possible sense, “to dwell in the house of the Lord for
ever.”

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

               PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
                           LONDON AND BECCLES.



FOOTNOTES


{5}  2 Sam. xii. 13.

{6}  Psa. li. 13.

{7}  Psa. cxlviii. 14.

{8a}  Exod. xv. 1.

{8b}  Psa. xl. 2, 3.

{8c}  Rev. vii. 10, 14.

{8d}  Isa. lx. 18.

{9a}  Psa. cxliii. 9.

{9b}  Acts xvi. 25, R.V.

{13}  St. Luke xix. 10.

{15}  Rev. xxii. 17.

{17}  2 Peter i. 3.

{18a}  2 Peter i. 3.

{18b}  St. John x. 28.

{20a}  Rom. iii. 25.

{20b}  2 Cor. v. 21.

{20c}  1 Cor. i. 30.

{20d}  St. John v. 28.

{21}  St. Jude 3.

{26}  Eph. ii. 4, 5.

{27a}  Gal. v. 22.

{27b}  Rom. xv. 13.

{28a}  2 Cor. v. 1.

{28b}  St. Luke ii. 26.

{29a}  Phil. i. 23.

{29b}  2 Tim. iv. 6.

{30a}  Phil. i. 23.

{30b}  2 Tim. i. 12.

{31a}  Psa. xxiii. 4.

{31b}  St. Luke xix. 9.

{32a}  1 Peter i. 8.

{32b}  Num. xxiv. 17.

{34a}  Isa. xxxii. 2.

{34b}  Psa. xxxii. 7.

{34c}  Col. iii. 3.

{34d}  1 John v. 12.

{35}  Gal. ii. 20.

{37}  2 Cor. v. 15.

{38}  St. John i. 26.

{39a}  St. John iii. 34.

{39b}  Col. ii. 9.

{39c}  Acts x. 38.

{40}  Acts ii, 3, 4.

{41a}  Phil. iv. 19.

{41b}  Job. xlii. 6.

{42}  Heb. x. 20.

{44a}  Acts xiii. 34.

{44b}  St. John xviii. 37.

{44c}  Rev. i. 5.

{44d}  Psa. xxxv. 3.

{45a}  1 John v. 10.

{45b}  St. John x. 3.

{45c}  Isa. xliv. 10.

{46a}  Isa. xlii. 16.

{46b}  Psa. xxxi. 3.

{46c}  Psa. cxix. 117.

{46d}  Psa. xxv. 4.

{47a}  Psa. xxiii 4.

{47b}  Eph. i. 22.

{47c}  Rev. xvii. 14.

{48a}  Rev. xvii. 14.

{48b}  Acts ix. 6.

{51}  Neh. iv. 6.

{52a}  Neh. iv. 4.

{52b}  St. Matt. xxvi. 41.

{53}  Neh. iv. 15.

{55a}  2 Pet. iii. 18.

{55b}  Rom. iv. 24, 25.

{56}  Rom. xi. 20.

{59a}  Acts xiii. 2.

{59b}  Eph. iv. 16.

{60a}  1 Sam. iii. 19.

{60b}  Mal. iii. 17.

{60c}  Ps. cxxvii. 1.

{61}  Eph. ii. 10.

{63a}  Isa. xxviii. 16.

{63b}  1 John iv. 16.

{64}  Heb. xiii. 8.

{65a}  Psa. lxiii. 1.

{65b}  Sam. xvii. 37.

{66}  1 Thess. iv. 13, 14.

{67a}  1 Thess. iv. 17.

{67b}  Phil. iv. 4, 5.

{67c}  1 Cor. vii. 29.

{68a}  Rom. xiii. 11.

{68b}  St. Matt. xxv. 6.

{68c}  St. Luke xxi. 25.

{69a}  St. Luke xxi. 26.

{69b}  St. Luke xxi. 28.

{69c}  St. Luke xxi. 27.

{71}  Heb. x. 20.

{72a}  Eph. ii. 14.

{72b}  Acts xiii. 7.

{72c}  Acts xiv. 1.

{73}  Acts xiii. 52.

{74a}  Acts xv. 4–12.

{74b}  St. Matt. xxviii. 20.

{74c}  Acts xvi. 14.

{75}  1 Cor. iii. 6.

{76a}  Acts xii. 7.

{76b}  Isa. lxiv. 7.

{77a}  Phil. ii. 12.

{77b}  Acts xvii. 16.

{78a}  Prov. xxvii. 17.

{78b}  Deut. xxxii. 11.

{79a}  Rom. i. 7.

{79b}  Rom. xiii. 11.

{80}  Cant v. 2.

{81}  1 Chron. xxviii. 20.

{82a}  Psa. cxix. 94.

{82b}  Isa vi. 8.

{82c}  St. John xvii. 19, R.V.  Margin.

{83a}  1 Chron. xxix. 9.

{83b}  1 Chron. xxix. 14.

{84}  Rev. ii. 4.

{87}  Rev. xxi. 3.

{89a}  St. Jude 24.

{89b}  1 John i. 9.

{90a}  Psa. xxiii. 4.

{90b}  Psa. lxiii. 1.

{90c}  Dan. x. 19.

{90d}  Psa. xxviii. 7.

{90e}  Psa. lxxiii. 2.

{90f}  Psa. lxxiii. 23.

{92}  Psa. xxxvi. 8.

{93a}  1 Tim. vi. 17.

{93b}  Titus iii. 6.

{93c}  Acts vi. 5.

{93d}  Eph. v. 18.

{93e}  Psa. lxxxi. 10.

{94a}  Psa. lxxxv. 10.

{94b}  St. John x. 28.

{95a}  Psa. lxxxiv. 6, Cp. R.V.

{95b}  St. John vi. 37.





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