"The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father."--John 1:18

In what a critical and impressive position does a new era of time place us! Such must be the feeling and such the reflection of every serious mind, realizing, in any degree, how solemn and precious a thing is LIFE! The opening year plants us midway between the past and the future, standing as upon a narrow isthmus, its shores washed by the waves of two eternities. The past of time a history--real, palpable, irrevocable, its records and its recollections all treasured up in the archives of another world, to be produced, scrutinized, and adjudged in that great day, when the books will be opened, and the dead shall be judged out of those things which were written in the book, according to their works.

The future of time, a conjecture--impalpable, shadowy, formless, its dim perspective slowly and silently rising before the mind, all draped with the deep shadows of an inscrutable unknown. Shuddering as we stretch our aching vision into the future--its duties and trials, its changes and perils, its promises and hopes--for life is a scene of sunshine and shade--all looming in the mist that shrouds them, the mind recoils from the contemplation. Verily, it is a thoughtful and serious position, this, in which we stand. And yet the child of God, believing, confiding, hoping, is tranquil and serene. With the scene before him, he is awe-struck, but not appalled; he is solemn, but not dismayed. With an intelligent survey, and a vivid perception of the responsibilities involved, of the duties imposed, of the trials embosomed, of the dangers concealed in this new-born epoch of time; and with, perhaps, a nervous and pensive anticipation of its yet unwritten history, he still is conscious of a feeling of trust and repose, of calmness and serenity, to which all others are strangers, unsustained by a "like precious faith" with him.

And whence this heaven-like placidity, this undisturbed feeling of confidence now stealing so gently and so soothingly across the spirit bending over the dreary confine, and peering into the shrouded events of the misty future? Oh, it is the assurance--the Divine, firm, unwavering assurance--that whatever that future may be--bright or shady, joyous or sad, sickness or health, life or death, earth or heaven--he dwells in the bosom of the Father. Could we confront our undeveloped history with a truth more spiritual, appropriate, and precious than this? It presents to us that great God, with whom in life's minutest incidents we have to do, clothed in the most lovely and winning character; while it defines our relation to Him as the most close and tender. Let our trembling faith but firmly grasp it; let our fluttering hearts but quietly repose in it; let our whole soul be absorbed in it; and every gloomy thought and anxious forecasting of the future will disappear as morning's gray mists dissolve into a landscape of pencilled loveliness and glowing light.

The first view of this interesting subject is that which presents to us THE HEART OF GOD UNVEILED--in other words, the manifested love of God to His people. Previous to the fall, no veil hid from the human soul, the heart of God. The sun of His affection, unshaded by even a vapor, shone forth in all its infinite yet not overpowering effulgence, since man's vision was yet unimpaired by sin, and undimmed by sorrow. Every recess in the Father's bosom was thrown open, every thought known, and every throb felt; while between the Creator and the creature there existed the most perfect harmony, confidence, and communion. He lived as none other did, in the very heart of God, as though he were its sole possessor and its solitary occupant.

But when, by a voluntary relinquishment, he forsook that sacred home, tore himself from that loving heart, a dark cloud, an impervious veil, hid it from his view; and no longer calm and happy in the assurance of his Father's love, from that moment God became to him an object of vague conception, of distorted feature, of guilty terror, and of dark distrust. A fugitive from the bosom that had nursed and cherished him in the days of his innocence; haunted by the misgivings of a guilty nature; shunning, terror-stricken, the glorious Being with whom he had been used so confidingly and so sweetly to converse, he sought distance and concealment from the God that had loved him, amid the deeply-shaded bowers of Eden. Ever since that fatal and entire severance from God, the atheistic language of man's revolted and alienated heart has been, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of your ways."

The heart of God thus veiled, WHO could unveil it? The love of God thus forfeited, who could restore it? The character of God thus shrouded in mystery, profound and impenetrable, who could portray it? If the Deity once more appeared in a manifested and benignant form to beings conscious of deserved wrath, and trembling with guilty fear, it must be by the Deity revealing Himself. To scale the height of the ascent that would once more bring us in view of the still loving and unchanged heart of God, would be an achievement impossible to man. To cross the barrier which separated the Eternal One from the fallen creature; to search out the viewless Godhead, resolve the secret, unravel the thoughts, and fathom the purposes pondering in the bosom of the Infinite Father--were beyond the utmost stretch of finite power, that power all bedwarfed and paralyzed by sin.

Nothing, then, is more clear, than that the Deity must descend to man; because of the utter incapability of man's ascending to the Deity. As God only knows His own love, that love, once alienated and lost, can only be re-won and revealed by a power in which the Godhead should appear, achieving the wonder and securing the praise. Now all this has been accomplished! God has come down to man in the form and appearance of man--the Deity visible to human eyes. "The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." In his incarnate form man sees "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person." Enshrined in humanity, he has stepped forth upon the platform of our world--the visible image of the invisible God--the authentic representation of Deity--"God manifest in the flesh." Stupendous verity!

Man can now look upon God and live. He can now gaze into the heart of God, repose, and not be afraid. All our terror and distrust is gone. All our vague, shadowy, and distorted conceptions are vanished. We observe the character, and read the heart, and behold the glory of God in the sinless humanity and atoning work of His beloved Son. The Father stands before us all unveiled. In the tears of sympathy which Jesus shed--in the accents of tenderness which He breathed--in the lessons of wisdom which He taught--in the strains of deep pathos with which even His rebukes and remonstrances were clothed--in the affluence with which He supplied every need--in the promptness with which He stifled every woe--in a word, in the profuseness with which He lavished His blessings on man in all the diversified forms of suffering and need--we see the bosom of the Father all unveiled. It was the heart of God throbbing in responsive benevolence to the quiverings of our soul; it was the love of the Father manifested, and flowing through the incarnate and crucified Son.

"God is love," was thus the great truth Jesus came to make known. Hence God's love is clearly a revelation to man, rather than a discovery by man. Divine love was the last perfection of Deity to baffle the research of human wisdom. Other attributes might be dimly traced in creation. Some faint glimmerings of God's wisdom, power, and goodness might be seen in the "things which are made;" but how God could love sinners, could redeem and save sinners, was a question to which nature's oracle returned no response. In the exercise of the vast powers with which his Creator has endowed him, man may discover everything but this. He sweeps the skies above him with his telescope, and a new brilliant world of surpassing glory opens before his view. He delves into the earth beneath him, and an ancient and long-lost city is untombed. He works a problem, and science develops some new and startling wonder.

But there is one discovery he cannot make--one wonder surpassing all wonders, the most marvelous and stupendous--he cannot unravel. Nature, aiding him in all other researches, affords him no clue to this. The sunbeam paints it not upon the brilliant cloud; the glacier reflects it not from its dazzling brow; the valley's stream murmurs it not in its gentle music; it thunders not in the roar of ocean's billow; it sighs not in the evening's zephyr; it exhales not in the opening flower; all nature is profoundly silent upon a theme so Divine and strange, so vast and tender, as God's redeeming love to man.

But the Son, leaving the bosom of the Father, in which from eternity He had reposed, and which, in the "fullness of time," He relinquished, has descended to our world to correct our apprehensions and to dislodge our doubts, to calm our fears and to reassure our hopes with the certainty of the wondrous fact--that God is still mindful of man, and takes delight in man--that no revolt nor alienation, no enmity nor ingratitude has turned away His heart from man; that He loves him still, and that loving, He "so loved him that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Thus did He come, His Father's representative, to declare Him to man. And as He wrought His brilliant miracles of stupendous power--thus attesting the fact of His Godhead; and as He pronounced His discourses of infinite wisdom--thus unlocking the treasures of His grace; and as He traveled all laden with our sins to the cross--thus unsealing the fountain of His compassion, He could say to all who challenged the Divinity of His mission, or who asked, at His hands, a vision of the Father, "He that has seen Me has SEEN THE FATHER."--"I and my Father are ONE."

Behold the mission of the Savior to our world! He has come to uplift the veil, and reveal the heart of God--that heart, all throbbing with a love as infinite as His nature, as deathless as His being. He came not to inspire but to reveal the love of God. The atonement did not originate, it expounded the Father's love--the love was already there. Sin had but beclouded its existence; man's rebellion had but arrested its flow. Struggling and panting for a full, unrestrained expression, it could find no adequate outlet, no appropriate channel in its course to man, except in the surrender and sacrifice of its most costly and precious treasure. The Son of the Father must bleed and die before the love of the Father could embrace its object. And now, O child of God, the veil is withdrawn, the thick cloud is blotted out, and your God stands before you all arrayed in ineffable love, His heart your divine pavilion, His bosom your sacred home. "The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."

And whose heart is it thus unveiled? It is a Father's heart. "I go to my Father and to your Father." Contemplate the child's place--it is "the bosom of the Father." "In You the fatherless finds mercy." Does an orphan's moistened eye drop a tear upon this page? Let him clasp these words to his sad heart, and no more feel that he is desolate and alone in the world, with no heart to love, no bosom to sympathize, no friends to cheer, no hand to help him. God is your Father, the orphan's Father and Friend. Confide but in His wisdom to guide you; repose but in His love to soothe you; trust but in His power to protect and in His willingness to befriend you, and His mercy shall be your solace and your shield until life's latest hour.

The heart of God, then, is a parent's heart; and what child would refuse to repose in a parent's bosom? Where will he look for affection, for sympathy, for confidence, for an asylum, if not in the bosom of his father? This place, and this privilege, child of God, is yours. "For you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."

Such is the distinction, and such the peculiar privilege of the child of God realizing in all circumstances that, in virtue of his union with the Lord Jesus, and of his adoption by grace into God's family, his perpetual dwelling-place is "the bosom of the Father!" To some of the Lord's people this may appear a truth strange and startling. "The Father's bosom; it is too sacred, too lofty, too privileged a place for one so sinful and wayward, so fickle and unworthy as I am." But listen to the argument that meets and removes your objection. Let me ask, where does the Head of the Church repose? You reply, "In the bosom of the Father." Then, where the Head dwells there also must dwell the body. And, where the body reposes, there must also repose the members of the body. Now the Lord Jesus is the Head of the Church, and the Church is "the body of Christ, and all we are members one of another." And because we belong to Christ, are accepted in Christ, and are loved by Christ, where Christ is, there we must be also. Thus it follows that our oneness with the Lord Jesus places us in the very bosom of the Father. All our atoning merits centering in Christ, all our worthiness springing from Christ, with this one, ever-prevalent, all-accepted plea, we go, and in childlike love, freedom, and simplicity, lay our sinful, weary, storm-tossed soul, in the soothing, sheltering bosom of the Father. There rests our elder brother; and there, in virtue of their relation to him, rests all "his brethren"--the weak and infirm, the tried and sorrowful, the bruised and tempted of the one family of God, the sacred and indivisible brotherhood of Christ. All repose where Jesus reposes--in the Father's bosom.

The posture is as expressive as the privilege is great. It implies identity of nature with the Father--intimate knowledge of the Father--confidential communications to the Father--and the tenderest love and sympathy ever flowing from the Father. Oh, it is a blessed posture, expressive of the perfect nearness of the Christian to God. Could we be nearer to God than to dwell, moment by moment, in His very heart? Nor this alone. It involves a pledge--solemn and binding as eternity--that all who repose there sincerely desire and earnestly aim to bring their heart and will and life into filial obedience and harmony with the mind and precepts of God.

The bosom of the Father is the HOLIEST place in the universe--it is tender, yet dreadful; winning, yet solemn--and none repose there but those who, participating in its deep love, and sympathizing with its Divine sanctity, aim in all things to be conformed to the Divine image. The bosom of the Father is not the place of the alien, the refuge of the outlawed rebel; it is the home and dwelling-place of the loving and obedient child. "Be therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

And what are some of the varied circumstances, in the Christian's chequered experience, in which the privilege of dwelling in the love of God is felt to be especially precious and appropriate? May we not specify, as among the chief, the season of parental chastisement? The rod of your heavenly Father is upon you. In the experience of your sensitive spirit, your feeling heart, the stroke is a heavy and a painful one. To a keen sense of its severity is, perhaps, added the yet keener conviction of the sin that has evoked it--that, but for your wanderings from God, your rebellion against His will; your disobedience of His commands, there had not lighted upon you a correction so painful and humiliating.

But where in your sorrow will you repair? To the solace and sympathy of whose heart will you betake yourself? Will you flee from that Father? Will you evade His eye and shun His presence? Eternal love forbids it! What then? You will hasten and throw yourself in His arms, and fall upon His bosom, confessing your sins, and imploring His forgiveness. Thus taking hold of His strength, with that displeased and chastening Father you are in a moment at peace. Blessed is the man, O Lord, whom you chasten, and draw closer within the sacred pavilion of your loving, sheltering bosom.

Oh, what an unveiling of the heart of God may be seen in a loving correction! No truth in experimental religion is more verified than this, that the severest discipline of our heavenly Father springs from His deepest, holiest love. That in His rebukes, however severe, in His corrections, however bitter, there is more love, more tenderness, and more real desire for our well-being, than exists in the fondest affection a human heart ever cherished. And oftentimes, in His providential dealings with His children, there is more of the heart of God unfolded in a dark, overhanging cloud than is ever unveiled and revealed in a bright and glowing sunbeam. But this truth is only learned in God's school.

Amid the many changes and vicissitudes of time, how precious becomes this truth! Out of God, "nothing is fixed but change." "Passing away," is inscribed upon all earth's fairest scenes. How the heart saddens as the recollections and reminiscences of other days come crowding back upon the memory. Years of our childhood--where have you fled? Friends of our youth--where are you gone? Hopes the heart once fondly cherished, joys the heart once deeply felt, how have you, like cut flowers, faded and died! All, all is changing, but the Unchanging One. Other hearts prove cold, other friendships alter--adversity beclouds them--fickleness chills them--distance separates them--death removes them from us forever. But there is One heart that loves us, clings to us, follows us in all times of adversity, poverty, sickness, and death, with an unchanged, unchangeable affection--it is the heart of our Father in heaven. Oh, turn to this heart, you who have reposed in a human bosom, until you have felt the last faint pulse of love expire. You who have lost health, or fortune, or friends, or fame--be your soul's peaceful, sure refuge, the Father's bosom, until these calamities be overpast.

And when from God we have strayed, and the Holy Spirit restores us to reflection, penitence, and prayer, and we exclaim, "I will arise!"--whose bosom invites and woos us back to its still warm, unchanged, and forgiving affection? whose but the bosom of the Father?--that same Father thus touchingly, exquisitely portrayed: "And when he was a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." Oh, who is a God like unto You? With a privilege so precious as this, shall not our future progress in the Divine life be in some degree commensurate with its costliness? Turning our back more upon the world--living more decidedly for God, for Christ, and for eternity--our spiritual advance and posture will more closely resemble the Church as it was seen, "Coming up out of the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved."

And what a uniting truth is this in its influence upon the household of faith! Realized in all its preciousness, and experienced in all its power, would difference of judgment be allowed to produce alienation of heart in the Church of the Lord Jesus? Assuredly not! The true and sad secret of the low ebb of Christian love, of the great and cold distance at which they stand from each other who are purchased by one and the same Atonement, who are inhabited by one and the same Spirit, who are journeying to one and the same heaven, is to be found in the faint and imperfect realization of this great uniting truth--that all the saints repose alike in the bosom of the Father. Dwelling so little in their Father's love, is it surprising that they dwell so little in each other's love? How touching is Christ's plea--"You are all brethren;" "One is your Father." What an argument for brotherly love is this!--The love that bounds beyond the wall of separation to embrace its object; the love that asks not the climate, the creed, the church--recognizing only the image of the Father, and relationship to the Elder Brother, as the sole term of its affection, confidence, and sympathy; the love that "suffers long, and is kind, that envies not, boasts not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil."

Who should be more closely united in affection and service as those who are, in the words addressed by Augustine to his friend Alpius, "Cemented with the same blood of Christ"--and to this, we add, who are bound together in the same heart of the Father? Oh, how should this great truth draw the saints of God nearer and still nearer to each other--even as rays of light more closely approach and blend as they converge towards their common center. Christian reader, let this year find you more warmly and prayerfully than ever devoted to a work so holy in itself, and so pleasing to your heavenly Father, as the promoting of an increased affection and manifested unity among the severed and separated, but the essentially ONE and indivisible, family of God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

Dwelling in the bosom of the Father, do not forget that throughout this year there is no needed and no asked blessing which that bosom can refuse you. Never will God chide you for asking too much. His tender upbraiding is that you ask too little. "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." Oh, be satisfied with asking nothing less than God himself. God only can make you happy. He only can supply the loss--fill the void--guide you safely, and keep you securely unto His eternal kingdom. God loves you! Oh, embosom yourself in His love; and then, were all other love to wane and die--were it to chill in your friend--to cease its throbbings in a father's bosom--to leave its last and holiest home on earth--a mother's heart--still, assured that you had an interest in the love of God, a home in the bosom of the Father, no being in the universe would be happier than you. To that bosom take your every sorrow; from it draw your every joy. Let no cloud veil it from your view. The moment it is intercepted, repair to the cross, and sprinkled afresh with the precious Blood of Christ, you shall again feel yourself at home in the bosom of your Father. Let the grief you bear, the evil you dread, the sadness and loneliness you feel, but conduct you closer and yet closer within the loving, sheltering heart of God. No fear can agitate, no sorrow can sadden, no foe can reach you there! The moment you find yourself resting in childlike faith upon God, that moment all is peace!

Upon whose bosom, dear reader, does your soul repose? Where are you relying for affection and friendship, for sympathy and support? There is but One who can meet your rational desires, your mental disquietudes, your soul's longings, your heart's pantings--it is God, revealed in the Son of His love, His heart unveiled in the person and work of the Lord Jesus. Do you need a bosom friend?--Christ is that Friend. He is the Friend of poor sinners--sinners just like you. He died for the vilest; shed His blood for the guiltiest; saves the chief of sinners--freely, graciously, without money, and without price. His precious blood cleanses from all sin. Make Christ, then, your bosom friend; receive Him into your heart, and He will take you into His heart. Unveil to Him your secret sorrows, and He will make known to you His hidden love. Believe in Jesus! Go and imitate, in the closeness of your walk with God, in your intimate fellowship with Christ, the holy example of the disciple whom Jesus loved, who leaned upon His breast at supper. There is room there for you. He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom. Sick one--bereaved one--chastened one--aged one, recline upon the bosom of the Father, and be still.

"His arm is beneath you,
His eye is above;
His spirit within you,
Says, rest in my love."

And let us be watchful and prayerful--drawing all grace from the fullness of Christ--that we do not grieve the bosom upon which we recline, by questioning its love, distrusting its faithfulness, or opposing its known wishes and commands. And oh, when the final hour comes--when comes the last sickness, and the last glance of earth, and the last look of love, and the last tear of sorrow--the world receding, eternity nearing, heaven opening--where will you then pillow your restless, languishing, dying head?--where but on the bosom of the Father? And when your spirit, escaping from earth to heaven, from sin and sorrow and suffering below, to a sinless, sorrowless, sunny home above, where will it find itself at last?--safely, serenely, and forever reposing upon THE BOSOM OF THE FATHER!

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