The Heavenly Birth and
its Earthly Counterfeits
Joseph Philpot, 1843.
"He came to that which was His own, but His own did not
receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name,
He gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural
descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." John
Hypocrisy and self-righteousness never probably rose to
such a height as at the period when the Lord of life and glory was upon
earth. The besetting sin of the Jewish nation before the Babylonish
captivity was idolatry, as we find recorded in the pages of the Old
Testament. But after their return from that captivity (more than five
hundred years before Christ came into the world), they never relapsed into
open idol-worship. The form of ungodliness in them was changed. The human
heart, ever "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," put on a
new mask; and though they no longer bowed down to gods of wood and stone,
nor went after the empty idols of their fathers, yet they prostituted the
worship of the only true God into lip-service and "bodily exercise". And
thus, though nominally worshipers of the only true God, yet they were as far
from Him in their hearts, though with their lips they drew near, as when
their forefathers bowed down before stocks and stones.
It was at this period, then, that God sent His only
begotten Son into the world; and chose at this time to fulfill all those
prophecies, which He before had given concerning the Messiah. Of this period
the apostle John speaks in the opening of this chapter. "The true light that
gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and
though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He
came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all
who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to
become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human
decision or a husband's will, but born of God." John 1:9-13
The text speaks of two entirely distinct classes of
characters--those who received Christ, and those who received Him not--and
it further tells us what was the happiness and blessed privilege of those
who received Him into their hearts and affections as the Son of God.
I. Now, what was the reason of this difference? How came
it to pass that of men born in the same nation, living in the same period of
time, and placed in precisely similar circumstances, some received Christ,
and others received Him not? Must we not trace it up to God's absolute
sovereignty?--that the reason why some did not receive Him was because
God willed it so? And why others did receive Him was equally because God
willed it so? Can we admit any other final cause of this difference than the
sovereign will of God, determining rejection by one, and reception by the
But when we come down from looking at God's sovereignty
to view the workings of the human heart, we see that there were certain
instrumental causes which operated on the minds of the one, as there were
certain instrumental causes which influenced the wills of the other. Those
that "received Him not" were under the influence of certain workings. They
knew nothing of divine sovereignty; they had no idea that what they said and
did was according to God's "determinate counsel" (Acts ii. 23). In doing
what they did, they followed the bent of their own minds; and thus they were
seemingly left to the exercise of their own will, while God really ordered
every action, that it might be to His own glory.
1. One cause, then, why those who "received Him not"
scornfully rejected Him, was the blindness and ignorance of their heart.
And this is one cause why men still to this day reject the Lord of life and
glory. As the apostle says, they were "alienated from the life of God
through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their
heart" (Eph. iv. 18). And to this the prophet alludes when he says, speaking
in the name of the Jewish people, "He shall grow up . . . as a root out of a
dry ground; He has no form nor loveliness; and when we shall see Him, there
is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isa. liii. 2). When the Jews looked
upon the Man of sorrows, He was not what their fancy had figured out--a
conquering Messiah, who would come to deliver them from the Roman yoke. And
therefore, being spiritually ignorant of His Person and work, they rejected
Him, because their eyes were not opened to see the dignity of the Godhead
under the veil of the suffering manhood.
2. Another reason was their self-righteousness.
And this same cause operates in men's minds now. Until self-righteousness is
in a measure broken down in a man's heart, he never can see any beauty nor
loveliness in a bleeding Jesus. Being madly enamored of his own
righteousness, and not seeing it in the light of God's countenance as
"filthy rags," (Isa. lxiv. 6) he has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no
heart to receive that glorious robe of righteousness, which the Son of God
wrought out, and which is imputed to all that believe on His name.
3. Another cause was the worldliness of their minds.
They were buried in the world, in the poor perishing things of time and
sense. Being dead in sin, they had no spiritual faculty, whereby eternal
things were perceived; no spiritual appetite, whereby heavenly food was
relished; no spiritual birth, whereby they could enter into the kingdom of
heaven. When Nicodemus therefore came to Jesus by night, the very first
truth that the Lord laid before him was the new birth--"Except a man be born
again" he can neither "see," nor "enter into the kingdom of God." (John iii.
3 and 5).
4. But the grand prevailing cause, after all, was
unbelief. It was not the determinate purpose of God to give them faith;
He left them therefore in their unbelief. Thus, having no spiritual faith to
believe the testimony of God concerning His dear Son, and being left
altogether to the power of unbelief, they first inwardly rejected, and then
openly crucified the Lord of life and glory. The same cause operates now.
When we consider Christ's miracles, we may look with astonishment upon the
unbelief of the Jews; but the same unbelief reigns by nature in the hearts
of all; and as long as men are blind, self-righteous, worldly, and
unbelieving (and they are all of these, until God "works in them to will and
to do of His good pleasure"), they will reject Jesus, and say secretly, "We
will not have this Man to reign over us," (Luke xix. 14) just as their
forefathers the Jews rejected Him openly when He stood at Pilate's tribunal.
II. But God's will was not to be frustrated; the
Almighty's purposes were not to be disappointed by the almost universal
rejection of Jesus by the Jews. He had from eternity "a peculiar people,"
who had an everlasting and indissoluble union with His dear Son. There was
"a remnant according to the election of grace," (Rom. xi. 5) who stood
eternally in Christ--for whom He gave Himself, shed His precious blood, laid
down His life, was entombed in the grave, rose on the third day, and now
sits at God's right hand, as their Intercessor and Mediator. And thus,
however far a man may be from God, however desperate his wickedness, however
thick his blindness, however powerful the unbelief of his heart, yet if he
is a vessel of mercy, the light and life of God's Spirit will penetrate
through all, and bring him into a knowledge, first of his ruin, and then of
those blessings which are stored up for him in his covenant Head. Though
Christ "came to His own, and His own received Him not" (that is not His own
by election, redemption, and regeneration, but His own nation, His own
property as Lord of heaven and earth), yet there was a people, who would
receive Him by living faith as their Lord and their God.
III. But as we have looked at God's sovereignty in the
way of rejection, and then endeavored to trace out the various causes by
which the great mass of the Jewish nation rejected the Lord of life and
glory, so will we endeavor (having seen God's sovereignty in choosing a
peculiar people), to trace out also the secret causes which led some to
receive Him whom the others received not.
1. The first cause, then, was the quickening life of
God's Spirit put into their souls; according to those words--"You has He
quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph. ii. 1). Until God by
His Spirit quickens the soul into spiritual life, there must be a determined
rejection of Christ. However a man may receive Him into his judgment, the
inward bias of his heart and the secret speech of his soul is, "Not this
Man, but Barabbas" (Luke xviii, 40.) If, then, there be any who do believe
in Him, receive Him, love Him, and have a blessed union with Him, it all
springs from the quickening Spirit of God, working with power in their
Now this quickening work of God the Spirit upon the heart
is manifested by certain fruits and evidences, which ever flow out of His
blessed operations. For instance, wherever the quickening power of God's
Spirit has passed upon a man's conscience, he is invariably brought to see
and feel himself to be a sinner. This inward sight of self cuts him off
sooner or later from all legal hopes, all Pharisaic righteousness, all false
refuges, and all vain evidences, with which he may seek to prop up his soul.
In many cases the work may begin in a way scarcely perceptible, and in other
instances may go on very gradually, for we cannot lay down any precise
standard. But I am sure of this, that the Lord will "bring down the hearts"
of all His people "with labor;" will convince them all of their lost state
before Him, and cast them as ruined wretches into the dust of death--without
hope, strength, wisdom, help, or righteousness, except that which is given
to them, as a free gift, by sovereign grace.
And when the soul is brought down by the hand of God upon
it to know the exceedingly heavy burden of sin, the wretchedness of the
malady with which we are infected, the holiness and justice of God who
cannot clear the guilty; and feels itself not only implicated in Adam's
transgression, but also condemned by actual commission of sin, it then
begins to find its need of such a Savior as God has revealed in the
Scriptures. And this work of grace in the conscience, pulling down all a
man's false refuges, stripping him of every lying hope, and thrusting him
down into self-abasement and self-abhorrence, is indispensable to a true
reception of Christ. Whatever a man may have learned in his head, or however
far he may be informed in his judgment, he never will receive Christ
spiritually into his heart and affections, until he has been broken down by
the hand of God in his soul to be a ruined wretch.
2. We cannot indeed tell how long a man may be in coming
here; some may be weeks, others may be months, and some may be years; but
when he is effectually brought here, the Lord is pleased, for the most part,
to open up to his astonished view, and to bring into his soul some saving
knowledge of the Lord of life and glory. And this He does in various ways,
for we cannot "limit the Holy One of Israel;" (Ps. lxxviii, 41) sometimes by
a secret light cast into the mind; sometimes by the application of a passage
of Scripture with power; sometimes alone in the secret chamber; sometimes
under the preached Word. In various ways, as God is pleased Himself to
choose, He casts into the mind a light, and He brings into the heart a
power, whereby the glorious Person of Christ, His atoning blood, dying love,
finished work, and justifying righteousness, are looked upon by spiritual
eyes, touched by spiritual hands, and received into a spiritual and
3. But wherever faith is given to the soul thus "to
receive" Christ, there will be mingled with this faith, and blessedly
accompanying it, love to the Lord of life and glory; and sometimes we may
know the existence of faith when we cannot see it, by discerning the secret
workings and actings of love towards that Savior, in whom God has enabled us
There will be from time to time, in living souls, a
flowing forth of affection towards Jesus. From time to time He gives the
soul a glimpse of His Person--He shows Himself, as the Scripture speaks,
"through the lattice" (Song ii. 9), passing, perhaps, hastily by, but giving
such a transient glimpse of the beauty of His Person, the excellency of His
finished work, dying love, and atoning blood as ravishes the heart, and
secretly draws forth the affections of the soul, so that there is a
following hard after Him, and a going out of the desires of the soul towards
Thus, sometimes as we lie upon our bed, as we are engaged
in our business, as we are occupied in our several pursuits of life; or at
other times under the Word, or reading the Scriptures, the Lord is pleased
secretly to work in the heart, and there is a melting down at the feet of
Jesus, or a secret, soft, gentle going forth of love and affection towards
Him, whereby the soul prefers Him before thousands of gold and silver, and
desires nothing so much as the inward manifestations of His love, grace, and
And thus a living soul "receives" Christ; not merely as
driven by necessity, but also as drawn by affection. He does not receive
Christ merely as a way of escape from "the wrath to come," merely as
something to save a soul from "the worm that dies not, and the fire that is
not quenched," but mingled with necessity, sweetly and powerfully combined
with it, and intimately and intricately working with it, there is the
flowing forth of genuine affection and sincere love, that goes out to Him as
the only object really worthy of our heart's affection, our spirit's
worship, and our soul's desire. And we cannot say that less than this comes
up to the meaning of the Scripture expression--"to receive Christ." If we
cannot, then, trace out in our hearts more or less of this work, which I
have attempted feebly to describe, we cannot yet be said spiritually to have
This is a very different thing from receiving Him into
our judgment, or into our understanding in a doctrinal manner. To receive
Him in the depths of a broken heart, as the only Savior for our guilty soul,
as our only hope for eternity, as the only Lord of our heart's worship, and
the only object of our pure affection; so that in secret, when no eye sees
but the eye of God, and only the ear of Jehovah hears the pantings of our
pleading heart, there is the breathing out of the spirit after the enjoyment
of His love, grace, and blood--to know and feel this stamps a man to have
"received" Christ into his heart by faith.
IV. But in the words of the text we read of a peculiar
privilege, a sacred blessing, which is connected with and attached to the
receiving of Christ. And perhaps you have been struck sometimes with the
words--"As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the
sons of God, even to those who believe on His name." Did the word 'become'
never strike you as a singular word? Does it not intimate a further step?
Does it not clearly imply that to "receive Christ," and to "become a son of
God" are two distinct things, and that one precedes the other?"
It is so. For it is only to those who "receive Christ,"
that the "power" (or "the privilege," as we read in the margin), is given,
"to become sons of God."
What then is it to "become a son of God?" For it is
evidently not the same thing as "receiving Christ," but a step that follows
on after receiving Christ; a privilege given to and reserved for those who
do spiritually "receive Him." To "become a son of God" is to become so
experimentally; to receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby the soul cries.
"Abba, Father;" to have that love which "casts out all fear that has
torment;" and not merely to receive Christ as our hope of salvation from
eternal perdition, but to be enabled by the witness and work of the Spirit
in the soul to enjoy that relationship.
V. But in speaking of these "sons of God," the apostle
describes them negatively as well as positively; he tells us what they are
not, and he tells us what they are. And it is by contrasting what they are
not with what they are, that we may arrive at some spiritual knowledge of
their real character and position.
1. Those then that have "received Christ," and by
receiving Christ have "become the sons of God" manifestively, are said "not
to have been born of blood." The Jews, we know, laid great stress
upon their lineal descent from Abraham. "We be Abraham's seed," they said to
the Lord on one occasion, "and were never in bondage to any man; how say
You, You shall be made free?" "Are You greater," asked they, "than our
father Abraham?" (John viii. 33, 53). Their lineal descent from Abraham was
the ground of their hope; and they believed that, being his children, they
were interested in all the promises which were made to him. They saw no
distinction between the children of Abraham literally and the children of
Abraham spiritually; and those promises which were made to the spiritual
seed of Abraham, as "the father of all those who believe" (Rom. iv. 11),
they appropriated to themselves as his lineal and literal descendants. Now
the apostle in the text demolishes that false idea, cuts from under their
feet the ground on which their vain hopes rested, and declares that those
who are so highly favored as to "become the sons of God" had something more
than being "born of blood."
If you look at the word "born," it implies some change.
Birth is a transition from a state of almost non-existence into existence--a
coming from darkness to light. When the apostle then says of them, that they
were "born not of blood," he implies that a change of some kind might take
place, analogous to the natural birth, and yet not be such a change as makes
a man become a child of God. Is there not such a false birth frequently now?
Are there not what are called "pious children of pious parents?" And could
you trace their religion to the very source and run it up to its first
origin, you would find that it had no better beginning than parental piety;
that the religious father taught religion to his child, and by dint of
admonition and instruction made him just as religious as himself. So that a
change may have taken place; seriousness may have taken the place of
trifling, religious books may have been taken up instead of novels, and
hymns be sung instead of songs; but after all, the change is a mere birth
"of blood." There has been no spiritual change, no almighty work of the Holy
Spirit in the soul; but the religion has been handed down from parent to
child, and stands upon no better footing than a mother's instruction or a
father's tuition. Those who were "born of God" had something better than
this to stand upon.
2. But the apostle, in tracing out the character of those
who were "the sons of God," brings forward another imitation of a spiritual
birth; he says they were not born "of the will of the flesh." Has
"the flesh," then, a will to be religious? Aye, surely; we have a religious
"old man," as well as an irreligious "old man." Nature is not confined to
one garb; she wears many masks, and can put on various appearances. Thus
there is a will in man--at least in many men--to be religious, and, if
possible, save themselves. But those who were "born of God," and had "power
given to them to become the sons of God," had experienced a deeper, higher,
because a spiritual and supernatural work upon their consciences, than any
such birth "after the will of the flesh."
The flesh, however high it may rise, can never rise above
itself. It begins in hypocrisy, it goes on in hypocrisy, and it never can
end but in hypocrisy. Whatever various shapes it puts on--and it may wear
the highest Calvinistic garb, as well as assume the lowest Arminian dress--a
fleshly religion never can rise above itself. There is no brokenness of
heart, no contrition of spirit, no godly sorrow, no genuine humility, no
living faith, no spiritual hope, no heavenly love, "shed abroad in the heart
by the Holy Spirit," in those that are "born after the will of the flesh."
No abasing views of self, no tender feelings of reverence towards God, no
filial fear of His great name, no melting of heart, no softening of spirit,
no deadness to the world, no sweet communion with the Lord of life and
glory, ever dwelt in their breasts. The flesh, with all its workings, and
all its subtle deceit and hypocrisy, never sank so low as self-abhorrence
and godly sorrow, and never mounted so high as into communion with the
Three-One God. The depth of the one is too deep, and the height of the other
too high for any but those who are "born of God."
3. We read, however, in the text, of another birth still,
which is, "of the will of man." Man then it appears has a will to
become religious; and as the birth according to "the will of the flesh"
pointed out a religion taken up by ourselves, so the birth after "the will
of man" shadows forth a religion put upon us by others. And to what does the
great mass of the religion of the present day amount? If we gauge it by the
scriptural standard, if we look at it with a spiritual eye, if we examine it
in its beatings Godward, what must we say of the vast bulk of religion
current in this professing day? Must we not say that it is according to "the
will of man?"
Eloquent exhortations to "flee from the wrath to come,"
thundering denunciations of God's vengeance against the world, working upon
the natural feelings, wooing men into a profession of religion, drawing into
churches boys and girls just out of the Sunday school, and persuading all
from infancy to grey-hairs to become religious--this is the way in which is
brought about the birth after "the will of man." And what is the end of it
all? It leaves the soul under "the wrath to come." There is in all this
religion no deliverance from the law, no pardon of sin, no separation from
the world, no salvation from death and hell. These various births, be they
"of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of
man," leave a man just where they found him--dead in sin, destitute of
the fear of God, and utterly ignorant of that divine teaching, which alone
can save his soul from eternal wrath.
But those who were so highly privileged and so
spiritually blessed as to "receive Christ," and by receiving Christ to
"become the sons of God," were partakers of another birth than these false
ones, and had received another teaching, another gospel, and another Jesus.
And these, and these only, were "born of God." The Lord Himself had
quickened their souls, and brought them out of nature's darkness into His
own marvelous light; the Lord Himself, by His secret work upon their
consciences, had cast them down and lifted them up, had brought them to the
birth and had also brought them forth; and thus they were "born of God," and
had received the kingdom of God with power into their hearts, so as to
become "new creatures," and to "pass from death unto life."
We see then the steps that the Spirit of God has here
been pleased to trace out. We see that He has drawn a separating line
between those who had nothing but nature, and those who had something more
than nature--even the grace and Spirit of God; and we see that the Lord with
decisive hand sets aside every profession but that which springs out of His
own divine teaching; and will have no subjects of His scepter and no
inhabitants of His kingdom but those in whose hearts He Himself has begun,
and is carrying on His own "work of faith with power."
Now I believe that for the most part, those who have
nothing else but a birth "of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the
will of man," have no doubts nor fears, no strong exercises nor sharp trials
as to their eternal state before God--while, on the other hand, those whom
the Lord is teaching by the blessed Spirit, are often tried and exercised in
their minds whether the feelings which they from time to time inwardly
experience spring from a real work of God upon their souls, or whether they
are mere counterfeits and imitations of a work of grace.
Thus, in God's mysterious providence, those who have
every reason to fear have for the most part no fear at all, and those who
have no reason whatever to fear; but stand complete in Christ, the objects
of God's eternal love, and the sheep for whom Jesus died, are the only
persons who are plagued and pestered with the fears that spring from their
own unbelieving hearts, and the temptations with which Satan is continually
distressing their minds. It is the object of Satan to keep those secure who
are safe in his hands; nor does God see fit to disturb their quiet.
He has no purpose of mercy towards them; they are not subjects of His
kingdom--they are not objects of His love. He therefore leaves them carnally
secure; in a dream, from which they will not awake until God "despises their
image" (Ps. lxxiii. 20).
But on the other hand, where Satan perceives a work of
grace going on; where he sees the eyes sometimes filled with tears, where he
hears the sobs heaving from the contrite heart, where he observes the knees
often bent in secret prayer, where his listening ear often hears the poor
penitent confess his sins, weaknesses, and backslidings before God (for by
these observations, we have reason to believe, Satan gains his
intelligence), wherever he sees this secret work going on in the soul, mad
with wrath and filled with malice, he vents his hellish spleen against the
objects of God's love. Sometimes he tries to ensnare them into sin,
sometimes to harass them with temptation, sometimes to stir up their wicked
heart into desperate rebellion, sometimes to work upon their natural
infidelity, and sometimes to plague them with many groundless doubts and
fears as to their reality and sincerity before a heart-searching God.
So that while those who have no work of grace upon their
hearts at all are left secure, and free from doubt and fear; those in whom
God is at work are exercised and troubled in their minds, and often cannot
really believe that they are the people in whom God takes delight. The
depths of human hypocrisy, the dreadful lengths to which profession may go,
the deceit of the carnal heart, the snares spread for the unwary feet, the
fearful danger of being deceived at the last--these traps and pitfalls are
not objects of anxiety to those dead in sin. As long as they can pacify
natural conscience, and do something to soothe any transient conviction,
they are glad to be deceived.
But, on the other hand, he that has a conscience tender
in God's fear knows what a dreadful thing it is to be a hypocrite before
God, to have "a lie in his right hand," and be deluded by the prince of
darkness; and therefore, until God Himself assures him with His own blessed
lips, speaks with power to his conscience, and establishes him in a blessed
assurance of his interest in Christ by "shedding abroad His love in his
heart," he must be exercised and tried in his mind, he must have these
various tossings to and fro, for this simple reason--because he cannot rest
satisfied except in the personal manifestations of the mercy of God.
In this congregation, doubtless, there are living souls
who are thus exercised. When you feel how carnal you have been--and how
often are you carnal!--how your mind has been buried in the things of time
and sense, how little prayer has been flowing out of your heart, how eternal
things have been hidden from your view--when you awake as out of a dream,
and find all your evidences beclouded, and all your past experience covered
with a thick veil of darkness, then these painful fears begin to rise in
your mind--lest with all your profession you should be deceived at the last.
But what do you under such circumstances? Do you fly to
man? No; for you are taught to see that "miserable comforters are you all"
(Job vi. 2). Do you fly back to past experiences? As you endeavor to pursue
them, they more and more recede from your view. Do you endeavor to gather up
your former comforts? They slip out of your fingers, and you have no solid
grasp of them. Do you go to ministers, that they may speak a flattering
word? If they do speak to you words of encouragement, you cannot receive it.
And thus, driven out of all creature hopes, your whole refuge and sole
resource is the Lord Himself. To Him you go with a contrite heart, with a
troubled mind, with an exercised soul; at His feet you bend with holy
reverence, and cast yourself as a poor guilty wretch at His footstool. And
when, in sweet and blessed answer to the cry of your soul, He drops in a
word to raise up your drooping spirit, then you receive that which no human
hand could minister; you have a balm which no human physician could give;
and your soul for a time feels satisfied with a sense and testimony of the
Shall we quarrel, then, with these doubts and exercises,
these temptations and trials, these assaults from Satan, these workings up
of inward corruption, when they are, in God's mercy and in God's providence,
such blessed helpers? If they drive us to a throne of grace to receive
answers of mercy there; if by them we are brought out of lying refuges; if
by them all false hopes are stripped off from us; if by them we are made
honest and sincere before God; if by them we turn away from all human help,
and come wholly and solely to the Lord that He alone may speak peace to us,
and bless us; shall we quarrel with these things, which are--if I may use
the expression--such friendly enemies, that are so changed from curses into
blessings, that in God's overruling providence are made so mysteriously to
work for our good?
Shall we not rather bless God for every exercise that
brings us to His footstool? for every temptation that has stripped away
creature-righteousness; for every blow that has cut us off from the world;
for every affliction that has embittered the things of time and sense; for
everything, however painful to the flesh, which has brought us nearer to
Himself, and made us feel more love towards Him, and more desire after Him?
Sure I am, that when we sum up God's mercies, we must include in the number,
things painful to the flesh, and which at one time we could only look upon
as miseries; no, in summing up the rich total, we must catalogue in the list
every pang of guilt, every stroke of conviction, every agonizing doubt,
every painful fear, every secret temptation, everything that has most
And could we among God's mercies assign a more prominent
place to one than to another, we should give the most distinguished to the
deepest trial. We should say--"Of all mercies, next to manifested mercies
(for we must put them at the head of the list), the greatest have been
troubles, trials, exercises, and temptations; for we now see that their
blessed effect has been to cut us clean out of fleshly religion, and out of
those delusions which, had we continued in them, would have been our
destruction, and thus eventually to bring us into nearer union, and to more
sweet and special communion with God Himself."
God leads all His people "forth by the right way;" but
the right way is to them as God leads them, a mysterious one, for He "brings
the blind by a way that they knew not" (Isa. xlii. 16). Could you and I, by
the eye of faith, retrace the whole path that God has been pleased to lead
us in, from the time He was pleased to quicken our souls; or I might go
further back than that--from the time that we came into existence; could we
accurately and believingly trace out all the path, we should come to this
sweet conclusion in our minds--It has all been a path of undeserved and
unmingled mercy; His dealings with us, however painful they may have been,
yet have all guided us "by the right way, that we might go to a city of
habitation" (Ps. cvii. 7).
And what is our present condition? Some of us perhaps are
passing through severe trials, walking in "darkness that may be felt,"
laboring under heavy burdens, and not seeing the sun behind the cloud. But
may we not judge from the past, what is the use of the present, and what
will be the outcome of the future? Has the Lord ever disappointed your
expectations? Has He ever been to you less than you have hoped, or other
than you wished? Oh that the Lord would enable each of us to trust Him even
now! However dark the path He may call us to walk in, may the Lord give us
this blessed confidence, that He is still leading us, still guiding us, and
will lead us and guide us, until He brings us to "see Him as He is," to
enjoy His presence, and to sit down in His glorious and eternal kingdom.