by James Smith, 1860
When Jacob returned from Padanaram at God's bidding, he was first pursued by Laban, and then confronted by Esau; showing that even when we move under God's special direction, we must not expect to escape from trials.
The coming of Esau filled him with, alarm — but he presently arranged his household and affairs, and then betook himself to prayer. He then met Esau with true politeness, and proved that prayer, prudence, and politeness prevailed. Esau refused his present, when he accepted his person — but he urged it upon him, and bore this honorable testimony for his God, "God has dealt graciously with me!"
And on this, my fifty-seventh birthday, I wish to
bear the same testimony, for if Jacob could say that God had dealt
graciously with him — then I am sure that I can; and if my reader is a
believer, he may also do the same. If God had only dealt justly with
us — where should we have been? Or, if we had only shared in his general
mercy — what would have been our condition? But he has dealt
graciously with us.
Let us review the PAST.
Beforeour birth into this world, God was gracious unto us, and therefore he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. He chose us to be holy. He chose us to salvation. He chose us to share the highest honors, taste the sweetest joys, and to experience the most wonderful transformation that a sinner can experience. He also predestined us to the adoption of children, that we may form a part of his family, and become joint heirs with his only begotten Son. He then redeemed us from death, ransomed us from the grave, and purchased us — by the death of Jesus, to be a peculiar people unto himself. Not only so — but he provides for all our needs, both as sinners and as saints, giving us his word, his ordinances, and his Holy Spirit.
And since our birth, both in temporals and
spirituals, God has dealt graciously with us. How many evils has he
prevented? How many blessings has he conferred? He has . . .
called us by his grace,
taught us by his Spirit,
corrected us with his rod,
comforted us with his word,
sanctified us by his grace,
employed us in his vineyard,
wrought for us by his providence,
and crowned us with usefulness! Yes! let us look whichever way we will — we must confess that God has dealt graciously with us. Goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our lives.
Let us then look at the PRESENT.
In temporals, we may have been tried — but we have been favored. We have a tolerable degree of health, we have bread to eat, clothing to wear, and a home in which to dwell. We have the use of our reason, and the enjoyment of our senses. How many have become insane, or deaf, or blind, or have lost their limbs — but none of these things have happened to us!
In spirituals, we have been kept from gross sins,
from falling into dangerous errors, and from apostatizing from the faith. We
have been blessed with the peace of God, and the comforts of the Holy
Spirit. We have been usefully employed for God's glory, and the good of our
fellow-men. We have been kept in connection with the Lord's people, enjoying
their sympathy and love. We are now on the Rock of Ages, we have now
all the provisions of grace, and we enjoy fellowship with the Father, and
with his Son Jesus Christ. To us belong . . .
all the promises of the covenant,
all the privileges of the sanctuary,
and all the prospects of glory.
We are . . .
the sons of God,
the brethren of Christ, and
the temples of the Holy Spirit.
On earth — we are training for Heaven; and in time — we are being schooled for eternity. With providence for our friend, and the Holy Spirit for our guide, we are going to take possession of the promised land. Truly then, we may well say, "God has dealt graciously with me!"
Now let us direct our attention to the FUTURE.
The future is provided for — as well as the present. Yes, all we shall need in the future is provided. The covenant is ordered in all things, and sure. Our supplies are before us, and when we need them — we shall have them. Support is promised us. So that let what will happen, however heavy our cross, however weak we feel, however powerful and daring our foes — we shall he supported, and shall at last be found more than conquerors through him that has loved us. Satisfaction may be anticipated, for with David we may look forward and say, "I shall behold your face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied when I awake with your likeness!" Yes, when our graces are perfected, when our sanctification is complete, when we arrive at our Father's house — we shall be perfectly and eternally satisfied.
So that before we were brought into the world, since we have been in this valley of tears, and in reference to every future step and stage of our journey — we may gratefully say, "God has dealt graciously with me!"
Let us then review the past with gratitude and praise, for God has dealt well with us according to his word. As we remember all the way the Lord our God has led us in the wilderness, we see reasons for thanksgiving and songs of praise.
Let us improve the present with industrious care. How much of life is already spent. How few may the days or months of our future pilgrimage be. But this is our comfort — that he who has dealt so well with us in the past — will deal well with us in the future. He will not fail us nor forsake us, until he has performed his word, and fulfilled in us all the good pleasure of his goodness.
He has dealt graciously with us — and therefore we ought to witness for him, to the praise of the glory of his grace. We should speak of his great goodness to encourage others, especially the young of the flock; assuring them, not only from his word — but from our own personal experience, that he will deal graciously with them.
We should also from the past, draw reasons for more devotedness to him and his service. O for grace to render again, according to that which the Lord has done for us.
And now, O good and gracious God, as you have dealt graciously with your poor servant, accept my humble tribute of thanks, and witness my hearty and entire surrender of myself anew to you, to be your servant, to do and to suffer your will, in order that I may glorify you on earth, and at length through your free and sovereign grace, arrive safe in glory, to live with you, and praise your glorious name forever!