"Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me." Romans 15:30

There are many weighty and solemn considerations which powerfully plead for the prayers of the Church of God, in behalf of her ministers and pastors. The first which may be adduced is- the magnitude of their work. A greater work than theirs was never entrusted to mortal hands. No angel employed in the celestial embassy bears a commission of higher authority, or wings his way to discharge a duty of such extraordinary greatness and responsibility. He is a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ- an ambassador from the court of heaven- a preacher of the glorious gospel of the blessed God- a steward of the mysteries of the kingdom. Properly to fill this high office- giving to the household their portion of food in due season- going down into the mine of God's word, and bringing forth to the view of every understanding its hidden treasures- to set forth the glory of Emmanuel, the fitness of His work, and the fullness of His grace- to be a scribe well instructed, rightly dividing the word of truth- to be wise and skillful to win souls, the grand end of the Christian ministry- oh, who so much needs the sustaining prayers of the Church as he?

Secondly. The painful sense of their insufficiency supplies another affecting plea. Who are ministers of Christ? Are they angels? Are they superhuman beings? Are they inspired? No, they are men in all respects like others. They partake of like infirmities, are the subjects of like assaults, and are estranged from nothing that is human. As the heart knows its own bitterness, so they only are truly aware of the existence and incessant operation of those many and clinging weaknesses of which they partake in sympathy with others. And yet God has devolved upon them a work which would crush an angel's powers, if left to his self-sustaining energy.

Thirdly. The many and peculiar trials of the ministry and the pastorate ask this favor at our hands. These are peculiar to, and inseparable from, the office that he fills. In addition to those of which he partakes alike with other Christians- personal, domestic, and relative- there are trials to which they must necessarily be utter strangers. And as they are unknown to, so are they unrelievable by, the people of their charge. With all the sweetness of affection, tenderness of sympathy, and delicacy of attention which you give to your pastor, there is yet a lack which Jesus only can supply, and which, through the channel of your prayers, he will supply. In addition to his own, he bears the burdens of others. How impossible for an affectionate, sympathizing pastor to separate himself from the circumstances of his flock, be those circumstances what they may. So close and so sympathetic is the bond of union- if they suffer, he mourns; if they are afflicted, he weeps; if they are dishonored, he is reproached; if they rejoice, he is glad. He is one with his Church. How feelingly the apostle expresses this: "Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?" To see a Christian pastor, in addition to his own personal grief, borne often in uncomplaining loneliness and silence, yet bowed down under accumulated sorrows not his own- others looking to him for sympathy, for comfort, and for counsel- is a spectacle which might well arouse in behalf of every Christian minister the slumbering spirit of prayer. We marvel not to hear the chief of the apostles thus pleading, "Brethren, pray for us."


"You all are partakers of my grace." Philippians 1:7

Most true is it, that in the grace bestowed by God upon a Christian pastor all the members of the flock share. They partake of that which belongs to him. All the grace with which he is enriched- all the gifts with which he is endowed- all the acquirements with which he is furnished- all the afflictions with which he is visited- all the comforts with which he is soothed- all the strength with which he is upheld- all the distinction and renown with which he is adorned- belong alike to the Church over which God has made him an overseer. There is in the pastoral relation a community of interest. He holds that grace, and he exercises those gifts, not on account of his own personal holiness and happiness merely, but with a view to your holiness and happiness. You are partakers with him. You are enriched by his "fatness," or are impoverished by his "leanness." The degree of his grace will be the measure of your own; the amount of his intelligence, the extent of yours. As he is taught and blest of Christ, so will you be. The glory which he gathers in communion with God will irradiate you; the grace which he draws from Jesus will sanctify you; the wealth which he collects from the study of the Bible will enrich you. Thus, in all things are you "partakers of his grace." How important, then, that on all occasions he should be a partaker of your prayers! Thus your own best interests are his strongest plea. Your profit by him will be proportioned to your prayer for him.

To the neglect of this important duty much of the barrenness complained of in hearing the word may be traced. You have, perhaps, been wont to retire from God's house caviling at the doctrine, dissecting the sermon in a spirit of captious criticism, sitting in judgment upon the matter or the manner of the preacher, and bitterly complaining of the unprofitableness of the preaching. With all tender faithfulness would we lay the question upon your conscience, "How much do you pray for your minister?" Here, in all probability, lies the secret of the great evil which you deplore. You have complained of your minister to others (alas! how often and how bitterly, to your deep humiliation be it spoken); have you complained of him to the Lord? Have you never seriously reflected how closely allied may be the deficiency in the pulpit, of which you complain, to your own deficiency in the closet, of which you have not been aware? You have restrained prayer in behalf of your pastor. You have neglected to remember in especial, fervent intercession with the Lord, the instrument on whom your advancement in the divine life so much depends. You have looked up to him as a channel of grace, but you have failed to ask at the hands of Jesus that grace of which he is but the channel. You have waited upon his ministrations for instruction and comfort, but you have neglected to beseech for him that teaching and anointing, by which alone he could possibly establish you in truth, or console you in sorrow. You have perhaps observed a poverty of thought, and have been sensible of a lack of power in his ministrations; but you have not traced it in part to your own poverty and lack in the spirit and habit of prayer in his behalf. You have marveled at, and lamented, the absence of sympathy, feeling, and tenderness in the discharge of his pastoral duties, but you have forgotten to sympathize with the high responsibilities, oppressive anxieties, and bewildering engagements inseparable from the office which your pastor fills, and in which he may largely share, often "under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life." Thus in a great degree the cause of an unprofitable hearing of the word may be found nearer home than was suspected. There has been a suspension of prayer and sympathy on your part, and God has permitted a suspension of power and sympathy on his.


"We wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." Romans 8:23

The terms "adoption," "redemption," must here be taken in a restricted sense. Our present adoption into God's family is as perfect as God can make it. We shall not in reality be more the children of God in heaven than we are now. Dwell upon this truth, beloved; press it in faith and gladness to your sighing, groaning heart. Is God's hand uplifted? Oh, tremble not! It is a Father's hand. Say not that it presses heavily upon you- it is the pressure of love. Do not think that there is one throb of affection less towards you in His heart. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God," and all the immunities and blessings of a present sonship are ours.

Equally as complete is our redemption from all that can condemn. When Jesus exclaimed, "It is finished!" by one offering He perfected forever the salvation of His Church. Then did He entirely roll away the curse from His people. Then did He hurl their sins into an infinite depth. Then did He complete the work the Father gave Him to do. For the finishing of that work, thanks be to God, the saints do not "wait."

And still, all believers are the expectants of an "adoption" to be confirmed, and of a "redemption" to be perfected. Their adoption now is concealed; their adoption then will be visible. Their present adoption is limited in its privileges; their future adoption will introduce them to all the riches of their inheritance, and to all the splendors of their Father's house. For this unveiled, this manifest, this full adoption they are "waiting."

And so, too, of "redemption." The ransom-price is paid, but the body is not yet fully redeemed. It still is fettered, and cribbed, and cabined by a thousand clinging corruptions and infirmities. But the day of its complete redemption draws near. In virtue of its ransom it will spring from the dust, its last link of corruption entirely and forever dissolved. "But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere." Like unto Christ's glorious body! Oh, then, no deformity will mar its symmetry! no infirmity will impair its strength! no sickness, no fainting, no nervousness, no pangs of suffering or throes of death will ever assail and torment it more! For this "redemption of the body" the sons of God are waiting. Our heavenly Father has adopted it. Our Divine Savior has redeemed it. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, has sealed it. Oh yes! The first-fruits of the "first resurrection" bloom on the grave of the holy dead. This page may arrest the eye of a sufferer, not soothed in his grief or cheered in his loneliness by such prospects as these. But there still is hope. Jesus died for sinners, and there is mercy even for the chief. Blessed suffering, hallowed sorrow, if now, in the agony of your grief, you are led to the Savior to learn, what in the sunny hour of prosperity and gladness you refused to learn, that God only can make you happy, and that God in Christ is prepared to make you happy. O heaven-sent affliction! sweet messenger of love! beautiful in your somber robes, bearing to my soul a blessing so divine, so precious as this!


"And I said, You shall call me, My Father; and shall not turn away from me." Jeremiah 3:19

Fellowship with God is the highest, purest, sweetest mercy a saint of God can have on earth. Yes, it is the highest, purest, sweetest bliss the saints of God can have in heaven. What is the enjoyment of heaven? Not merely exemption from trial, and freedom from sorrow, rest from toil, and release from conflict. Oh no! it is the presence- the full unclouded presence of our Father there. To be with Christ- to behold His glory- to gaze upon His face- to hear His voice- to feel the throbbings of His bosom- to bask in the effulgence of God's presence- oh, this is heaven, the heaven of heaven!

The twilight of this glory we have here on earth. ”I am not alone," can each sorrowful and banished soul exclaim, "because the Father is with me." Yes, beloved, your own Father! "You shall call me my Father." In Jesus He is your Father- your reconciled, pacified Father- all whose thoughts that He thinks of you are peace, and all whose ways that He takes with you are love. The presence, the voice, the smile of a parent, how precious and soothing! especially when that presence is realized, and that voice is heard, and that smile is seen in the dark, desolate hour of adversity. God is our heavenly Parent. His presence, His care, His smiles are ever with His children. And if there be a solitary child of the one family that shares the richer in the blessing of the Father's presence than another, it is the sick, the suffering, the lone, the chastened child. Yes, your Father is with you ever. He is with you to cheer your loneliness, to sweeten your solitude, to sanctify your sorrow, to strengthen your weakness, to shield your person, to pardon your sins, and to heal all your diseases. Hearken, in your deep solitude, to His own touching words: "Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." Enough, my Father! if thus You are with me, I am not, I cannot be alone; and if such the bliss with which You do sweeten, and such the glory with which You do irradiate the solitude of Your hidden ones, Lord, let me ever be a hidden one- shut out from all others, shut in alone with You!


"As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." Isaiah 66:13

Acute is the penitential grief of that child which has strayed from its heavenly Father. Deep and bitter the sorrow when he comes to himself, resolves, and exclaims, "I will arise, and go to my Father." Many the tremblings and doubts as to his reception. "Will He receive back such a wanderer as I have been? Will He take me once more to His love, speak kindly to me again, restore to me the joys of His salvation, give me the blessed assurance of His forgiveness, and once more admit me with His children to His table?" He will, indeed, weeping penitent! God will comfort your present sorrow by the tokens of His forgiving love. He invites, He calls, He beseeches you to return to Him. He is on the watch for you, He advances to meet you, He stretches out His hand to welcome you, He waits to be gracious, He yearns to clasp His penitential, weeping Ephraim to His heart. "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."

Will a mother's love live on, warm and changeless, amid all the long years of her child's rebellion, forgetfulness, and ingratitude? Will she, when he returns, and gently knocks at her door, and trembling lifts the latch, and falls, weeping and confessing, upon the bosom he had pierced with so many keen sorrows, press him to a heart that never ceased to throb with an affection which no baseness could lessen, and which no dishonor could quench? And will God our Father, who inspired that mother's love, who gave to it all its tenderness and intensity, and who made it not to change, turn His back upon a poor, returning child, who in penitence and confession seeks restoring, pardoning mercy at His feet? Impossible! utterly impossible!

The love of God to His people is a changeless, quenchless, undying love. No backslidings can lessen it, no ingratitude can impair it, no forgetfulness can extinguish it. A mother may forget, yes, has often forgotten her child; but God, never! "Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!" How touching, how impressive the figure! It is a woman- that woman is a mother, that mother is a nursing mother- and still she may forget and abandon her little one; "yet will I not forget you," says your God and Father. Touching, heart-melting, heart-winning truth!

Lord! we come unto You in Jesus' name! We have sinned, we have gone astray like lost sheep, we have followed the devices of our own hearts, we have wandered after other lovers, we have wounded our peace, and have grieved Your Spirit: but, behold, we come unto You, we fall down at Your feet, we dare not so much as look unto You, we blush to lift up our faces- receive us graciously, pardon us freely; so will we loathe ourselves, hate the sin You pardon; and love, adore, and serve the God who forgives and remembers it no more forever! As one whom his mother comforts, so do You comfort us!


"For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Romans 8:6

Spiritual-mindedness is life. We fearlessly challenge every believer- What has been the effect in your soul of a low state of grace? What has been the effect of carnal indulgence of allowed sin- of needless communion with the world- of conformity to its policy and its pleasures- of unruly temper- of a volatile disposition, yes, of any species of carnality whatever: has it not been "death"? When a process of spiritual relapse has been allowed to proceed stealthily and unchecked- when the world, and sin, and self have gained an ascendancy, what has been the consequence? "Death!"

The habit of prayer may not have been totally neglected, but there has been no communion with God- and so there has been death upon prayer. The Bible has not been entirely unread, but no light has beamed upon the sacred page- and so there has been death upon the Bible. The means of grace have not been utterly forsaken, but no grace has distilled from these channels- and so there has been death upon the means of grace. Thus a spiritual deathliness has crept over the soul, the effect and fruit of indulged and growing carnality.

But "life" is the blessed effect of heavenly-mindedness. It is life springing from life, or rather, the inner life in its outer actings. What spiritual mightiness, almost omnipotent, does he possess, whose mind and heart and faculties are deeply immersed in the Spirit of Christ, closely allied to the Divine and heavenly! As sin is weakness, so holiness is strength. As carnality impairs, so spirituality invigorates. The one deadens, the other vivifies. Close dealing with Essential Life increases the life of spirituality. Much communion with Jesus draws forth "life more abundantly."

It is impossible to live a life of faith in the Son of God, constantly taking to His blood every sin, to His heart every care, to His sympathy every sorrow, to His grace every corruption, to His arm every burden, without being conscious of new life, of augmented power, of increased heavenliness. Inquire of the man of prayer what is the effect in his soul of close filial communion with God? Ask the reflective mind what is the effect upon his spirit of holy meditation? Ask the conscience much beneath the cross what is the result of the constant sprinkling of the atoning blood? And, as with one voice, and with one utterance, each believer will answer, "Life!" Oh, there is an energizing influence in spirituality, a quickening of the spiritual life in heavenly-mindedness, which he only can understand whose converse is much with things heavenly, much with God.

There is life in prayer, life in the word, life in ordinances, life in the enjoyment of vital religion, which transmits the thrill of its deep pulsations through the whole soul. Nor life alone in these. But when the storm of adversity blows- when sore affliction comes- when the "noise of the water-spout" is heard, and the tossing waves and the foaming billows roll over the soul- when the shadow of death is settling upon all creature-good; then, even then, the spiritual mind panting after life exclaims, "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me." "This is my comfort in my affliction; for Your word has quickened me." And what is all this but the pledge and the prelude of the glorious consummation and crown of all- the life that is to come, even life everlasting?


"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives give I unto you." John 14:27

Peace also is a fruit of spiritual-mindedness. What peace of conscience does that individual possess whose mind is stayed upon spiritual things! It is as much the reward as it is the effect of his cultivated heavenliness. The existence of this precious blessing, however, supposes the exposure of the spiritual mind to much that has a tendency to ruffle and disturb its equanimity and repose. The Christian is far from being entirely exempt from those chafings and disquietudes which seem inseparable from human life. To the brooding anxieties arising from external things- life's vicissitudes, mutations, and disappointments; there are added, what are peculiar to the child of God, the internal things that distract- the cloudings of guilt, the agitations of doubt, the corrodings of fear, the mourning of penitence, the discipline of love.

But through all this there flows a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God. It is the peace of the heavenly mind, the peace which Jesus procured, which God imparts, and which the Holy Spirit seals. A heavenly mind soars above a poor dying world, living not upon a creature's love or smile- casting its daily need upon the heart of a kind Providence- anxious for nothing, but with supplication and thanksgiving making known its requests unto God- indifferent to the turmoil, vexations, and chequered scenes of worldly life, and living in simple faith and holy pleasing on Christ. Thus detached from earth, and moving heavenwards by the attractions of its placid coast, it realizes a peace which passes all understanding.

And if this be the present of the heavenly mind, what will be the future of the mind in heaven? Heaven is the abode of perfect peace. There are no cloudings of guilt, no tossings of grief, no agitations of fear, no corrodings of anxiety there. It is the peace of perfect purity- it is the repose of complete satisfaction. It is not so much the entire absence of all sorrow, as it is the actual presence of all holiness, that constitutes the charm and the bliss of future glory.

The season of sorrow is frequently converted into that of secret joy- Christ making our very griefs to sing. But the occasion of sin is always that of bitter grief; our backslidings often, like scorpions, entwined around our hearts. Were there even- as most assuredly there will not be- sadness in heaven, there might still be the accompaniment of happiness; but were there sin in heaven- the shadow of a shade of guilt- it would becloud and embitter all. Thus, then, as heaven is the abode of perfect peace, he who on earth has his conversation most in heaven approximates in his feelings the nearest to the heavenly state. Oh that our hearts were more yielding to the sweet, holy, and powerful attractions of the heavenly world! Then would our conversation be more in heaven.


"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh." Romans 8:3

What is it that the law cannot do? The law has no power to place the sinner in a justified state. In other words, it cannot fulfill its own righteousness. "By Him all who believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses." "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” Nor has it power to give life. "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law."

The law pronounces the unjustified sinner dead- his religion dead- his works dead- his faith dead; but with not one breath of spiritual life has it power to inspire the soul. Oh, the infatuation which prompts men to seek spiritual life from a law powerful only as an instrument of eternal death! Nor has the law power to make anything whatever perfect in the great matter of man's salvation. "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw near unto God." These things the law fails to achieve. And herein is it weak. Holy in its nature, it is yet incapable of making the sinner holy. Righteous in its precepts, it yet cannot justify the ungodly. Respecting the Divine image, it yet has no power to transfer that image to the soul.

But let us trace this failure to its proper cause. From where, then, this weakness of the law of God? We reply, not from any inherent defect in the law. "The law is holy, just, and good," and of itself powerful enough to take the soul to glory. But the apostle supplies the answer- "weak through the flesh." It was right that he should thus shield the dignity of the law, and maintain that there belonged to it a native force and capacity worthy of Him from whom it emanated, and equal to the accomplishment of the great end for which it was enacted. The weakness of the law, then, is to be traced, not to any inefficiency of the instrument, but to the sinfulness of man; not to the agent, but to the subject.

What an impressive view does this give us of the deep depravity, the utter sinfulness of our nature! So great is the corruption of the flesh, that it opposes and thwarts the law in its great work of imprinting its image upon the mind of man. Oh, what must be the character and power of that sinfulness which can thus sever the locks of its strength, and divert it from its sacred purpose! Sincerely would the law make us holy, but our depravity foils it. Sincerely would it recall our alienated affections, but our heart is so utterly estranged from God that its generous effort fails. Thus the law is weak, through the corrupt and sinful flesh.

Let us be deeply humbled by this truth. How entirely it stains the pride of all our fleshly glory! Where, now, is our native holiness, our boasted pride, and our vaunted worthiness? The law, always on the side of purity and love, yearned to bring us beneath its holy and beneficent influence, but our carnality interposed, and it became weak.


"God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh." Romans 8:3

What words are these- "God sending his own Son!" A person less exalted, less Divine, could not have accomplished what the Divine law failed to do. And since an enactment which was a transcript of Deity proved too feeble for the purpose, Deity itself undertakes the work. God's own eternal and essential Son embarks in the enterprise, and achieves it. What a Rock of salvation, saint of God, is this! Springing from the lowest depths of your humiliation, see how it towers above your curse- your sin- your condemnation! It is a Rock higher than you. Infinitely removed beyond the reach of condemnation is that soul whose faith is planted upon this Rock.

"In the likeness of sinful flesh." These words place in the clearest possible light the true humanity of the Son of God. It was not human nature in appearance that He took, as some have taught, but human nature in reality. It was a perfectly organized body, having all the properties, affinities, and functions belonging to our own; bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, made in all points like His brethren. Now can He, with a feeling of the most exquisite sympathy, be touched with my infirmity; for this nature which I drag about with me, feeble and bruised, jaded and crushed, was the very nature which He took into mysterious union with His Godhead, wore it here below, and wears it still in heaven!

But with what care and skill does the Holy Spirit guard the perfect sinlessness of our Lord's humanity! Observe, it was not the reality of sinful flesh that the Son of God assumed, but its "likeness" only. He took real flesh, but bearing the resemblance of sinfulness. He was "made like his brethren.” "Tempted like we are, yet without sin." And so in the passage before us, "in the likeness of sinful flesh." The words suppose a resemblance to our sinful nature. And, oh! how close that resemblance was! As like a sinner as one could be, who yet in deed and in truth was not one- "who knew no sin," but was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners."

Man is a sinner; our blessed Lord was man- so truly man, that His enemies exclaimed, "We know this man is a sinner." They could not understand how one could be so really human, and yet be untainted with sin. And then, did there not cling to Jesus the infirmities of our fallen nature, which, though sinless in Him, were not the less the effects of sin? He hungered- He thirsted- He wept- He was wearied- He slept- He was afflicted- He sorrowed- He trembled- He suffered- He died. And as we trace these infirmities of our humanity floating upon the transparent surface of His pure life, how forcible do we feel the words- "Made in the likeness of sinful flesh"!

And when we see Him traduced as a sinner by man, and, standing beneath His people's transgressions- dealt with as a sinner by God; by man denounced as "a glutton," "a drunkard," "a friend of publicans and sinners," "an impostor", "a deceiver," a "blasphemer,"- then arraigned, condemned, and executed as a criminal not worthy to live; as an accursed one by God, charged with all the sins of the elect Church, bruised and put to grief, and at last abandoned by Him on the cross, then numbered with transgressors, and making His grave with the wicked in His death- oh! how like sinful flesh was the robe of lowliness and suffering which He wore! And yet, "He was without sin."

It was the resemblance, not the reality. The human nature of the Son of God was as free from sin as the Deity it enshrined. He was the "Lamb of God, without spot." The least taint of moral guilt- a shade of inherent corruption- would have proved fatal to His mission. One leak in the glorious Ark which contained the Church of God would have sunk it to the lowest depths. Oh! this is the glory of His work, and the solace of our hearts, that Christ our Savior "offered Himself without spot unto God." And now we may plead His sinless atonement as the ground of our pardon, and the acceptance of our people. "He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." The Lord bless these truths to the comfort and edification of our souls.


"Every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it may bring forth more fruit." John 15:2

The Lord empties before He fills. He makes room for Himself, for His love, and for His grace. He dethrones the rival, casts down the idol, and seeks to occupy the temple, filled and radiant with His own ineffable glory. Thus does He bring the soul into great straits, lay it low, but to school and discipline it for richer mercies, higher service, and greater glory. Be sure of this, that, when the Lord is about to bless you with some great and peculiar blessing, He may prepare you for it by some great and peculiar trial.

If He is about to advance you to some honor, He may first lay you low that He may exalt you. If He is about to place you in a sphere of great and distinguished usefulness, He may first place you in His school of adversity, that you may know how to teach others. If He is about to bring forth your righteousness as the noon-day, He may cause it to pass under a cloud, that, emerging from its momentary obscuration, it may shine with richer and more enduring luster. Thus does He deal with all His people. Thus He dealt with Joseph. Intending to elevate him to great distinction and influence, He first casts him into a dungeon, and that, too, in the very land in which he was so soon to be the gaze and the astonishment of all men. Thus, too, He dealt with David, and Job, and Nebuchadnezzar; and thus did God deal with His own Son, whom He advanced to His own right hand from the lowest state of humiliation and suffering.

Regard the present suffering as but preparatory to future glory. This will greatly mitigate the sorrow, reconcile the heart to the trial, and tend materially to secure the important end for which it was sent. The life of a believer is but a disciplining for heaven. All the covenant dealings of His God and Father are but to make him a partaker of His holiness here, and thus to fit him for a partaker of His glory hereafter. Here, he is but schooling for a high station in heaven. He is but preparing for a more holy, and, for anything we know, a more active and essential service in the upper world. And every infirmity overcome, every sin subdued, every weight laid aside, every step advanced in holiness, does but strengthen and mature the life of grace below, until it is fitted for, and terminates in, the life of glory above.

Let the suffering believer, then, see that he emerges from every trial of the furnace with some dross consumed, some iniquity purged, and with a deeper impress of the blessed Spirit's seal of love, holiness, and adoption, on his heart. Let him see that he has made some advance towards the state of the glorified; that He is more perfected in love and sanctification- the two great elements of heaven; and that therefore he is fitting for the inheritance of the saints in light. Blessed and holy tendency of all the afflictive dispensations of a covenant God and Father towards a dear and covenant child!


"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Romans 8:14

It is the office of Jehovah the Spirit in the covenant of redemption, after He has called a people out of the world, to place Himself at their head, and undertake their future guidance. He knows the path to heaven. With all its intricacies and dangers He is acquainted. He is familiar with the sunken rock, the treacherous quicksand, the concealed pit, and the subtle snare. He knows, too, the individual and ordained path of each celestial traveler. All that God has appointed in the everlasting covenant- all the windings, and intricacy, and straitness of the way- He knows. All the future of our history is infinitely more vivid and transparent to His mind than is the past, already trodden, to our eye. It is utterly impossible, then, that He should mislead.

And what is equally as essential to Him as a guide, He knows His own work in the soul. All its light and shade, its depressions and its revivings, its assaults and victories, are vivid to his eye. Dwelling in that heart- His sacred temple- His chosen abode- He reads His own writing inscribed there; understands the meaning of every groan, interprets the language of every sigh, and marks the struggling of every holy desire; He knows where wisely to supply a check, or gently to administer a rebuke, tenderly to whisper a promise, or sympathetically to soothe a sorrow, effectually to aid an incipient resolve, strengthen a wavering purpose, or confirm a fluctuating hope.

But, in less general terms, what is it to be led by the Spirit? The existence of spiritual life in those He leads is an essential point assumed. He does not undertake to lead a spiritual corpse, a soul dead in sins. Many are moved by the Spirit, who are not led by the Spirit. Was not Saul, the king of Israel, a solemn instance of this? And when it is said, "the Spirit of God departed from him," we see how, in an ordinary way, the Spirit may strive with a man's natural conscience, and powerfully work upon his feelings through the word, and even employ him as an agent in the accomplishment of His will, and yet never lead him one step effectually and savingly to Christ and to heaven.

There is, as in Ezekiel's vision of the bones, "a voice, and behold a shaking, and the bones come together, bone to his bone; but there is no breath in them." But there is spiritual life in those whom the Spirit leads. They thus become in a sense voluntary in the movement. They are not forced; it is not by compulsion they follow; they are led- persuasively, gently, willingly led. The leading of the Spirit, then, is His acting upon His own life in the soul.

It supposes, too, entire inability to lead themselves in those who are led by the Spirit: "I will lead the blind by a way they know not." And such are we. Unable to discern a single step before us, and incapable of taking that step even when discerned, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What can we see of truth- what of providence- what of God's mind and will, of ourselves? Absolutely nothing. Oh, what unfoldings of ignorance, what exhibitions of weakness, have marked some of the wisest of God's saints, when left to self-teaching and to self-guidance! Thus there is a strong and absolute necessity that wisdom, and strength, and grace, infinitely transcending our own, should go before us in our homeward journey.


"For we who worship God in the Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us." Philippians 3:3

The first step the Spirit takes in this great work is to lead us from ourselves- from all reliance on our own righteousness, and from all dependence upon our native strength. But let us not suppose that this divorce from the principle of self entirely takes place when we are "married to another, even to Christ." It is the work of a life. Alas! Christ has at best but a portion of our affections. Our heart is divided. It is true, there are moments, bright and blissful, when we sincerely and ardently desire the full, unreserved surrender. But the ensnaring power of some rival object soon discovers to us how partial and imperfect that surrender has been. This severing from ourselves- from all our idols- is a perpetual, unceasing work of the Spirit. And who but this Divine Spirit could so lead us away from self, in all its forms, as to constrain us to trample all our own glory in the dust, and acknowledge with Paul that we are "less than the least of all saints."

But more than this, He leads from an opposite extreme of self- from a despairing view of our personal sinfulness. How often, when the eye has been intently bent within, gazing as it were upon the gloom and confusion of a moral chaos, the Spirit has gently and graciously led us from ourselves to an object, the sight of which has at once raised us from the region of despair! How many walk in painful and humiliating bondage, from not having thus been sufficiently led out of themselves! Always contemplating their imperfect repentance, or their weak faith, or their little fruitfulness, they seem ever to be moving in a circle, and to know nothing of what it is to walk in a large place. Thus from sinful self, as from righteous self, the Spirit of God leads us.

To what does He lead? He leads us to Christ. To whom else would we, in our deep necessity, wish to be led? Now that we know something experimentally of Jesus, to whom would we go but to Him? Having severed us in some degree from ourselves, He would bring us into a closer realization of our union with the Savior. "He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you."

And this promise is fulfilled when, in all our need, He leads us to Christ. Are we guilty? the Spirit leads us to the blood of Jesus. Are we weary? the Spirit leads us to abide in Jesus. Are we sorrowful? the Spirit leads us to the sympathy of Jesus. Are we tempted? the Spirit leads us to the protection of Jesus. Are we sad and desolate? the Spirit leads us to the tender love of Jesus. Are we poor, empty, and helpless? the Spirit leads us to the fullness of Jesus. And still it is to the Savior He conducts us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, but the holy Jesus is our comfort. And to Jesus- to His person, to His offices, and to His work, in life and in death, the Divine Guide ever leads us.


"Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have received of us how you ought to walk, and to please God, so you would abound more and more." 1 Thessalonians 4:1

What are some of the footprints of this walk? How may we trace it? Unreserved obedience is an undoubted mark of pleasing God. An obedience that asks no abatement of the precept, but that follows the Lord fully in its observance, not from an enlightened judgment, but from a love-constrained heart- walking, as did the primitive saints, in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly- is indeed well-pleasing to God. Oh! let there be no reserves in our obedience! Let us withhold from Christ no part of His purchased inheritance, but surrender all at His feet, whose heart's blood was the purchase price of all.

"Lord, however strait be the path, painful the cross, and self-denying the precept, sincerely would I walk uprightly in all Your ways, and fully follow You in all Your commands, leaving the consequences of my simple and implicit obedience to Your control. I can endure the repulsion of the world, the alienation of friends, the coldness of relatives, and can take the spoiling of my earthly goods joyfully, if You, my Lord, sustain me with Your grace, cheer me with Your presence, and solace me with Your love."

Another footprint may be described in the walk of faith by which the Christian journeys to His heavenly home. As unbelief is most dishonoring, so faith is most honoring to the Lord Jesus. What a revenue of praise accrues from it to His name! To repair to His sufficiency- with our anxiety, the moment it occurs; with our corruptions, the moment they are discovered; to His grace- with our sorrow, the moment it is felt; to His sympathy- with our wound, the moment it is inflicted; to His love- with our guilt, the moment it is detected; to His blood- oh! do you do not think that this walk of faith is most pleasing to the Lord?

Let us beware of that which impairs the simplicity of this our walk, and causes us to stumble or turn aside. We must be cautious, in the varied circumstances of our history, of applying first to a human arm for support, or to a human bosom for sympathy. With this the Lord cannot be well pleased. But let us not hesitate to bear them at once to the one-appointed source of all our supply; disclosing our needs to the full Savior; our wanderings to our heavenly Father; our griefs and burdens to our elder Brother and Friend; and in thus walking by faith, we shall have the divine assurance in our souls, our rejoicing this- the testimony of our conscience that we please the Lord.

Oh, let us seek closely to resemble the two illustrious examples set before us in the word, of this high and holy walk. The minor one- because purely human- of Enoch, who "before he was taken up had this testimony, that he pleased God." The higher one- because the human was blended with the Divine- of Jesus, who could say, "I always do those things which please Him."


"For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity; for it is great." Psalm 25:11

The knowledge of indwelling sin, its existence and power, is often exceedingly defective at conversion, and this ignorance may continue for years after. We just see sin enough to alarm the conscience, awaken conviction, and take us to Christ. As a thing against God, we hate it, mourn over it, and seek its pardon through the atoning blood. This is followed by a sweet and lively sense of its blotting out, and a growing desire after Divine conformity.

But, oh, the unknown depths of sin! These we have never explored. What infinite wisdom and love are seen in hiding these depths at first from our knowledge! Were the Lord fully to have revealed the hidden evils of the heart at the period when grace was yet in the bud, and faith was feeble, our views of the Lord Jesus dim, and the "new creature" yet in its infancy, deep and dark despair would have gathered around the soul.

With, perhaps, just knowledge enough of Christ to go to Him as a Savior; with just faith enough to touch the hem of His garment; the Eternal Spirit just disclosed to us the existence and the guilt of sin; a full disclosure might have shut us up in hopeless despair. It is sweet, beloved, to remember the tender love of God in our espousals; to trace the gentleness of His first dealings with us in conversion; and to bear in mind that what He then was, He is at this moment.

But trace the work of the Spirit in the after days of our experience. He comes, in accordance with the design of the covenant of grace, to sanctify, having called and quickened us. He is about to enlarge the "kingdom of God within" us; to stamp more deeply, and bring out more vividly and broadly on the soul, the varied lineaments of the Divine image. He is about to purify the temple more thoroughly; to take a fresh possession for God; to expel every rival that by slow and imperceptible degrees may have insinuated itself there; in a word, He is about to sanctify us.

And how does He commence the work? By leading us into the chamber of imagery; by disclosing the depths of indwelling sin; sin, whose existence we had never imagined, He shows to have its principal dwelling in the heart! Iniquity, that we had never thought of, He reveals as lurking in secret ambush within. Oh, what darkness, what evil, and what baneful principles are found to have so long existed, where we thought all was light, holiness, and rectitude! We startle, we shudder, and we shrink away, aghast at the discovery!

"What!" says the alarmed soul, "does all this evil dwell in me? Have I borne about with me so long these vile affections? Have I dwelling in me the seeds of such deep and dark depravity? Wonder of wonders is it, that the flood has not long since carried me away; that these deep evils have not broken out, to the wounding of my peace, and to the dishonoring of my God and Savior."

Thus made acquainted with his own heart, almost a stranger to him before, the Holy Spirit awakens in his soul an ardent panting for holiness. In view of such a discovery, where can he fly but to the throne of grace? There, then, he goes, weeping, mourning, confessing; and his prayer is, "Lord, subdue these evils of my heart. I am whelmed with astonishment; yes, 'I lie down in shame, and my confusion covers me,' that I should have harbored so long these treacherous foes against You, O God of holiness and love. 'Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can't find a foothold to stand on. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me.' 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.'"

And now the Spirit deepens and strengthens this panting for sanctification; the believer is set upon earnestly seeking holiness of heart; he sees such an iniquity in sin as he never saw before, and seeing it, he abhors it, and abhorring it, he takes it to the Spirit of holiness, that he might overcome and subdue it. Thus, in leading the believer into a deeper acquaintance with the existence and power of indwelling sin, does the blessed Spirit sanctify the soul, by making it the occasion of stirring up his desires for holiness.

Do not be cast down, beloved, at the discovery of the hidden evil of our heart. Sweet is the evidence it affords to the fact that the Holy Spirit is working there. Whatever be the sin that is brought to light; pride, deceit, carnality, inordinate affection, evil thoughts, unbelief, impatience, whatever it be, He is revealing it to you, not unnecessarily to wound and grieve you; oh no, He is a living and a gentle Spirit; but to beget this desire in your heart, "Lord, conform me to Your image; make me holy, as You are holy."


"My wayward children," says the Lord, "come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts."
"Yes, we will come," the people reply, "for you are the Lord our God." Jeremiah 3:22

Do not stay away from the throne of grace because of an unfavorable frame of mind. If God is ready to receive you just as you are; if no questions are asked, and no examination is instituted, and no exceptions are made on account of the badness of the state; then count it your mercy to go to God with your worst feelings. To linger away from the throne of grace because of unfitness and unpreparedness to approach it, is to alter its character from a throne of grace to a throne of merit.

If the Lord's ears are only open to the cry of the righteous when they seek Him in certain good and acceptable frames of mind, then He hears them for their frames, and not because He is a God of grace. But He can never alter His character, or change the foundation of His throne. It is the mercy-seat; the throne of grace; and not for any frame, either good or bad, in the suppliant does He bow His ear, but for His own mercy's sake. Yield not, then, to this device of your adversary, to keep you from prayer.

It is the privilege of a poor soul to go to Jesus in his worst frame; to go in darkness, to go in weak faith, to go when everything says, "Stay away," to go in the face of opposition, to hope against hope; to go in the consciousness of having walked at a distance, to press through the crowd to the throne of grace, to take the hard, the cold, the reluctant heart, and lay it before the Lord. Oh what a triumph is this of the power and the grace of the blessed Spirit in a poor believer!

Dear reader, what is your state? Are you feeble in prayer? Are you tried in prayer? And yet, is there anything of real need, of real desire in the heart? Is it so? Then, draw near to God. Your frame will not be more favorable tomorrow than it is today. You will not be more acceptable or more welcome at any future period than at this moment. Give yourself unto prayer.

I will suppose your state to be the worst that can be; your frame of mind the most unfavorable, your cross the heaviest, your corruption the strongest, your heart the hardest; yet betaking yourself to the throne of grace, and, with groanings that cannot be uttered, opening your case to the Lord, you shall adopt the song of David, who could say in the worst of frames, and in most pressing times, "But I give myself unto prayer." "Come, let us tell of the Lord's greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me, freeing me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. I cried out to the Lord in my suffering, and he heard me. He set me free from all my fears." Psalm 34:3-6


"Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers." 3 John 2

Is it true that God, by setting you aside from active engagements, has set you aside from all duty and labor? We do not think so. Is it too much to say, that He is now summoning you, though to a more limited and obscure, yet to a higher and holier, because more self-denying and God-glorifying, sphere of duty? Your present loss of health has brought with it its high and appropriate duties, obligations, and employments. It bears an especial message from God to you, and through you to others. Contemplate the work to be done in your own soul, and the testimony through this which you are to bear to the power of Divine grace, to the sustaining energy of the Gospel, and to the character of God; and I ask if the lone chamber of sickness has not its special and appropriate duties, responsibilities, and work, equally as difficult, as honorable, and as remunerative as any which attach to the sphere of activity or to the season of health?

You are called upon now to glorify God in a passive, rather than in an active consecration to His service. Graces hitherto perhaps dormant, or but feebly brought into play, are now to be developed and exercised to their utmost capacity. Patience is to be cultivated, resignation is to be exhibited, faith is to be exercised, love is to be tried, and example is to be set; and are not these great, holy, and sublime achievements? Who will affirm that there is no sermon to be preached from that languid couch, that sick-bed; yes, and it may be more solemn, more searching, more full of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, than the pulpit ever preached.

The Church and the world have now the testimony of one passing through the present and personal experience of what he speaks. A sick-room is not the place for theorizing upon truth and eternity. All transpiring there is stern reality. The dust of human applause is laid aside, the breath of adulation is hushed, the flush of excitement has faded, and the delirium of an admiring throng has passed away; the artificial gives place to the true. All is as real and solemn as eternity.

Deem not yourself a useless cumberer, because sickness has incapacitated you for active labor. God has but changed your sphere of duty, transferring you, doubtless, to one more glorifying to Himself. Receive, then, with meekness your Heavenly Father's dispensation, which, while it has set you apart from the Lord's work, has set you apart more exclusively and entirely for the Lord Himself. Your great desire has been to glorify Him: leave Him to select the means which may best advance it.

You have thought of health and activity, of life and usefulness; of being a champion for the truth, a herald of salvation to the ignorant and the lost, a leader in some high and laborious path of Christian enterprise; but He has ordained it otherwise. And now by sickness and suffering, by silence and solitude, He is giving you other work to perform, which shall not the less secure your usefulness, and promote His glory.


"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." Luke 22:31

That faith should be more frequently and severely assailed than any other grace of the Holy Spirit, will cease to create surprise as we become acquainted with the rank and position it occupies in the renewed soul. Placed in the very front of the battle, itself the strongest, the most determined and successful foe of the assailing powers of darkness and of sin, in effecting its overthrow all their force, skill, and malignity are marshaled and directed.

But who is its chief and most formidable assailant? It is Satan, the accuser of the brethren, the tempter, the sworn enemy of God and man. It is he, the master-spirit of darkness and woe, who, without possessing a single attribute of Deity, yet approaches so near in resemblance to the Divine, that in every place and at each moment of time He is present, closely watching, closely studying, and incessantly working to deceive, and to overthrow, were it possible, the faith of the very elect.

By what power or agency he is enabled to prosecute the dark designs of his gloomy intellect, and to effect the malignant purposes of his depraved heart, we cannot now venture at any length to premise. Whether with the subtlety and velocity which belong to the light, there is an incessant expansion of thought, imparting a kind of personal omnipresence, to the ruling mind of the infernal empire; or, whether, without being personally present, we may account for the extent of his agency, operating alike in every place, and at the same moment, by supposing intelligence communicated to, and commands issued from, him through the medium of the innumerable host of myrmidons who compose those "principalities and powers," over which Jesus triumphed, "making a show of them openly," must, however strong the presumption, still remain points involved in much doubt and obscurity.

But there is one fact respecting which we are not left to conjecture. I allude to the eager and restless machinations of Satan, to weaken, dishonor, and destroy the faith of God's elect. "Satan has desired to have you." Observe here the limitation of Satanic power in reference to the believer. This is its utmost extent. He has no power or control over the redeemed, but that which God permits. He can but desire, and long, and plot; not a hand can He lay upon them, by not a single temptation can He assail them, not a hair of their head can he touch, until God bids Him. "Satan has desired to have you"; there stood the arch-foe waiting permission, as in the case of Job, to destroy the apostle of Christ.

Dear reader, how consolatory is this truth to the believing mind. You have often trembled at the power of Satan, and perhaps well-near as often have been the involuntary object of his implacable hatred and deep devices. But press now this animating thought to your trembling heart– he has no control nor influence nor power over a redeemed soul but that which God permits, and which Christ allows. "Thus far shall you go, and no further," are words which reveal His inferiority, prescribe his limits, and arrest the progress of the proud fiend.


"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12

Let us inquire what is that which Satan desires to assault? It is the work of God in the soul. Against his own kingdom not a weapon is raised. It is his aim and his policy to keep all there undisturbed and peaceful. But against the work of the Holy Spirit in the renewed mind, his artillery is brought to bear; not a part of this work escapes him. Every grace comes in for its share of malignant attack; but especially the grace of faith. When, for example, a repentant and believing soul approaches Christ with lowliness and hesitancy, and with the tremulous hand of faith attempts to touch the border of His garment, or with a tearful eye looks up to His cross, then comes the assault upon faith in the form of a suggestive doubt of Christ's power and willingness to save. "Is Jesus able to save me? Has He power to rescue my soul from hell? Can He blot out my transgressions, and redeem my life from destruction? Will He receive a sinner, so vile, so unworthy, so poor as I? Has He compassion, has He love, has He mercy sufficient to meet my case?"

In this way Satan assails the earliest and the feeblest exercises of faith in the soul. Does this page address itself to any such? It is Satan's great effort to keep you from Jesus. By holding up to your view a false picture of His character, from which everything loving, winning, inviting, and attractive is excluded, by suggesting wrong views of His work, in which everything gloomy, contracted, and repulsive is foisted upon the mind; by assailing the atonement, questioning the compassion, and limiting the grace of Christ, he would persuade you that in that heart which bled on Calvary there is no room for you, and that upon that work which received the Father's seal there is not breadth sufficient for you to stand. All his endeavors are directed, and all his assaults are shaped, with a view to keep your soul back from Christ. It is thus he seeks to vent his wrath upon the Savior, and his malignity upon you.

Nor does he less assail the more matured faith of the believer. Not infrequently the sharpest attacks and the fiercest onsets are made, and made successfully, upon the strongest believers. Seizing upon powerful corruptions, taking advantage of dark providences, and sometimes of bright ones, and never allowing any position of influence, any usefulness, gift, or grace, that would give force, success, and brilliance to his exploit, to escape his notice, he is perpetually on the alert to sift and winnow God's precious wheat.

His implacable hatred of God, the deep revenge he cherishes against Jesus, his malignant opposition to the Holy Spirit, fit him for any dark design and work implicating the holiness and happiness of the believer. Therefore we find that the histories of the most eminent saints of God, as written by the faithful pen of the Holy Spirit, are histories of the severest temptations of faith, in the most of which there was a temporary triumph of the enemy; the giant oak bending before the storm. And even in instances where there was no defeat of faith, there yet was the sharp trial of faith.

The case of Joseph, and that of his illustrious antitype, the Lord Jesus, present examples of this. Fearful was the assault upon the faith of both, sharp the conflict through which both passed, yet both left the battlefield victorious. But still faith was not the less really or severely sifted.


"The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

The spiritual life is above human nature, and therefore all the power of nature cannot inspire it. Nature, we admit, can go far in imitating some of its characteristics, but nature cannot create the essential property or principle of this life. Nature can produce a semblance of faith, as in the case of Simon Magus; a semblance of repentance, as in the case of Judas; a semblance of hearing the word with joy, as in the case of Herod. It can even appear to taste the heavenly gift, and feel the powers of the world to come. All this, and much more, can human nature do, and yet be human nature still.

Here its power stops. There is something which it cannot do. It cannot counterfeit the indwelling of Christ in the sinner's soul. It cannot enable a man to say, "I live, and Christ lives in me." This infinitely transcends its mightiest power. Spiritual life, then, springs not from human nature, and is therefore produced by no natural cause or means. It is from God. He it is who calls this new creation into being, who pencils its wonders, who enkindles its glories, and who breathes over it the breath of life. It is God's life in man's soul.

Thus the true Christian is one who can adopt the expressive and emphatic language of Paul; "I live." Amplifying the words, he can exclaim, "I live; as a quickened soul. I live; as a regenerate soul. I live; as a pardoned sinner. I live; as a justified sinner. I live; as an adopted child. I live; as an heir of glory. I live; and I have never lived before! My whole existence until now has been but as a blank. I never truly, really lived, until I died! I lived, if life it may be called, to the world, to sin, to the creature, to myself; but I never lived by Christ, and I never lived to God."

Oh tremendous truth! Oh solemn thought! for a soul to pass away into eternity without having answered the great end of its creation; without having ever really lived! With what feelings, with what emotions, with what plea, will it meet the God who created it? "I created you," that God will say, "for myself, for my glory. I endowed you with gifts, and ennobled you with faculties, and clothed you with powers second only to my own. I sent you into the world to expend those gifts, and to employ those faculties, and to exert those powers, for my glory, and with a view to the enjoyment of me forever. But you buried those gifts, you abused those faculties, you wasted those powers, and you lived to yourself, and not unto me; and now to yourself, and in everlasting banishment from my presence, you shall continue to live through eternity."

Come from the four winds, O breath of the living God, and breathe upon the dead, that they may live! Avert from the reader so dire a doom, so fearful a catastrophe! And permit none, whose eye lights upon this solemn page, any longer to live to themselves, but from this moment and forever, gracious Savior! may they live for You; their solemn determination and their sublime motto this, "For me to live is Christ."


"The church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood." Acts 20:28

The Deity of the Son of God imparted a Divine vitality and value to the blood which flowed from His human nature. So close and intimate was the mysterious union, that while the Deity effected the atonement by the humanity, the humanity derived all its power and virtue to atone from the Deity. There was Deity in the blood of Jesus; a Divine vitality which stamped its infinite value, dignity, and virtue.

Observe in two instances how strikingly the Holy Spirit has coupled these two truths; the Deity and the atonement of Jesus: "Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins." "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord; smite the shepherd." Here are brought out in the strongest light, and in the most beautiful and intimate relation, Deity and atonement. It was not so much that our Lord was the Priest, as that He was the Sacrifice; not so much that He was the Offerer, as that He was the Offering; in which consisted the value of His blood. "When He had by Himself purged our sins." "Who gave Himself for us." "When He offered Himself." "What did He offer in offering Himself? He offered up His life; His twofold life. There was on Calvary the sacrifice of Deity with the humanity. The Deity not suffering, for it was incapable of suffering; nor of dying, for essential life could not die; but Deity with the humanity constituted the one offering which has perfected forever the salvation of those who are sanctified.

Profoundly and awfully mysterious as is this truth, faith can receive it. It towers above my reason, and yet it does not contradict my reason. While it transcends and baffles it, it does not oppose nor supersede it. Christian reader, the blood upon which you depend for your salvation is not ordinary blood; the blood of a mere human being, however pure and sinless; but it is the blood of the incarnate God, "God manifest in the flesh." It is the blood of Him who is Essential Life; the Fountain of Life the "Resurrection and the Life;" and because of the Divine life of Jesus, from thence springs the vitality of His atoning blood.

Oh, that is a Divine principle that vivifies the blood of Christ! This it is that makes it sacrificial, expiatory, and cleansing. This it is that enables it to prevail with God's justice for pardon and acceptance; this it is that renders it so efficacious that one drop of it falling upon the conscience, crushed beneath the weight of sin, will melt the mountain of guilt and lift the soul to God. Hold fast the confidence of your faith in the essential Deity of the Son of God, for this it is which gives to His Atonement all its glory, dignity, and virtue.


"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; and he bowed his head, and gave up the spirit." John 19:30

A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, "It is finished!" Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:29-30

Believer in Jesus! remember, all your confidence, all your hope, all your comfort flows from the finished work of your Savior. See that you unwittingly add nothing to the perfection of this work. You may be betrayed into this sin and this folly by looking within yourself, rather than to the person of Jesus; by attaching an importance too great to repentance and faith, and your own doings and strivings, rather than ceasing from your own works altogether, and resting for your peace, and joy, and hope; simply, entirely, and exclusively in the work of Jesus. Remember, that whatever we unintentionally add to the finished work of Christ mars the perfection and obscures the beauty of that work. "If you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it."

We have nothing to do, but in our moral pollution and nakedness to plunge beneath the fountain, and wrap ourselves within the robe of that Savior's blood and righteousness, who, when He expired on the tree, so completed our redemption, as to leave us nothing to do but to believe and be saved.

"It is finished!" Oh words pregnant of the deepest meaning! Oh words rich in the richest consolation! Salvation is finished! Look away from your fluctuating frames, and fitful feelings, and changing clouds, to "Jesus only." Look away from sins and guilt, from emptiness and poverty, to "Jesus only." "It is finished!" Let devils hear it, and tremble! Let sinners hear it, and believe! Let saints hear it, and rejoice! All is finished!

"Then, Lord, I flee to You, just as I am! I have stayed away from You too long, and am 'yet instead of getting better, I grew worse.' Too exclusively have I looked at my unworthiness, too absorbed have I been with my impoverishment, too bitterly have I mourned having nothing to pay. Upon Your own finished work I now cast myself. Save, Lord, and I shall be saved!"

Before this stupendous truth, let all creature merit sink, let all human glory pale, let all man's boasting vanish, and let Jesus be all in all. Perish, forms and ceremonies; perish, rites and rituals; perish, creeds and churches; perish, utterly and forever perish, whatever would be a substitute for the finished work of Jesus, whatever would tend to neutralize the finished work of Jesus, whatever would obscure with a cloud, or dim with a vapor; the beauty, the luster, and the glory of the finished work of Jesus!

It was "Jesus only" in the councils of eternity; it was "Jesus only" in the everlasting covenant of grace; it was "Jesus only" in the manger of Bethlehem; it was "Jesus only" in the garden of Gethsemane; it was "Jesus only" upon the cross of Calvary; it was "Jesus only" in the tomb of Joseph; it was "Jesus only" who, "when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." And it shall be "Jesus only"; the joy of our hearts, the object of our glory, the theme of our song, the Beloved of our adoration, our service, and our praise, through the endless ages of eternity. Oh, stand fast, in life and in death, by the finished work of Jesus.


"He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy." Proverbs 28:13

A sense of guilt upon the conscience invariably occasions distant views of God. The moment Adam became conscious of having sinned, He hid himself from God's eye. He sought concealment from the endearing presence of Him who had been used to walk in the cool of the evening through the bowers of Paradise, in sweet and confiding communion. It is so now! Guilt upon the conscience, sin unconfessed, imparts misty, gloomy, distorted views of God. We lose that clear endearing view of His character which we once had. We dare not look up with holy, humble boldness. We misinterpret His dealings; think harshly of His ways; and if providences are dark, and afflictions come, in a moment we exclaim, "I have sinned, and God is angry." And so we seek concealment from God. We sink the Father in the Judge, and the child in the slave.

Another evil that results from sin unconfessed is the hardening tendency it produces upon the conscience. To a child of God, who has felt and mourned over the power of sin, we need not stay to prove how hardening is the tendency of sin; how it crusts the heart with a callousness which no human power can soften, and which often requires heavy affliction to remove. Where a child of God, then, neglects the habit of a daily confession of sin, by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, the conscience loses its tenderness, and becomes, by this gradual process, so hardened as at length to think nothing of a sin, which at a previous period would have filled the soul with horror and remorse.

One more evil we may mention, and that is, that a neglect of this most important duty causes a fearful forgetfulness of sin, without the sweet sense of its forgiveness. The believer loses sight of his sin, not because he knows it to be pardoned, afresh blotted out, but from a mere carnal forgetfulness of the sin. The child of God, on whose conscience the atoning blood has been afresh sprinkled, cannot soon forget his sin. Oh no! Freed from a sense of its condemnation, delivered from its guilt, and looking up to the unclouded face of a reconciled God, yet He remembers how far he could depart from the God that so loved him, and so readily and freely forgave him. The very pardon of his sin stamps it upon his memory. He thinks of it only to admire the love, adore the grace, and extol the blood that blotted it out; and thus he is led to go softly all his days. "My soul has them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me."

But the believer who neglects the duty and the privilege of confession loses the remembrance of his sin, until brought under the rod of the covenant. Then some deep and heavy chastisement recalls it to his memory, and fills him with shame, humiliation, and contrition. In this state, the Eternal Spirit comes into the soul with His restoring mercies, leads the abased and humbled believer afresh to the "fountain opened,"; and God; the God of all comfort; speaks in words of comfort to his broken heart.


"God is love." 1 John 4:8

God in Christ is no longer a "consuming fire," but a God of love, of peace; a reconciled God. God in Christ holds out His hand all the day long to poor sinners. He receives all; He welcomes all; He rejects, He refuses, He casts out none. It is His glory to pardon a sinner. It is the glory of His power, it is the glory of His love, it is the glory of His wisdom, it is the glory of His grace, to take the prey from the mighty, to deliver the lawful captive, to pluck the brand from the burning, to lower the golden chain of His mercy to the greatest depth of human wretchedness and guilt, to lift the needy and place him among the princes.

Behold Christ upon that cross! Every pang that He endures, every stroke that He receives, every groan that He utters, every drop of blood that He sheds, proclaims that God is love, and that He stands pledged and is ready to pardon the vilest of the vile. Justice, sheathing its sword, and retiring satisfied from the scene, leaves Mercy gloriously triumphant. And "God delights in mercy."

Having at such an infinite cost opened a channel; even through the smitten heart of His beloved Son; through which His mercy may flow boundless and free, venture near, nothing doubting. No feature of your case is discouraging, or can possibly arrest the pardon. Your age, your protracted rebellion against God, your long life of indifference to the concerns of your soul, the turpitude and number of your sins, your lack of deep convictions or of stronger faith, nor worth or worthiness to recommend you to His favor; are no true impediments to your approach, are no pleas why you should not draw near and touch the outstretched scepter, bathe in the open fountain, put on the spotless robe, welcome the gracious pardon, and press it with gratitude and transport to your adoring heart.

In the light of this truth, cultivate loving and kindly views of God. Ever view Him, ever approach Him, and ever transact your soul's affairs with Him, in and through Jesus. He is the one Mediator between God and your soul. God your Father may now be leading you through deep and dark waters. His voice may sound roughly to you. His dim outline is, perhaps, all that you can see of Him. His face seems veiled and averted; yet deal with Him now in Christ, and all your hard thoughts, trembling fears, and unbelieving doubts shall vanish.

In Jesus every perfection of God dissolves into grace and love. With your eye upon the cross, and looking at God through that cross, all the dark letters of His providence will in a moment become radiant with light and glory. That God, who has so revealed Himself in Jesus, must be love, all love, and nothing but love, even in the most dark, painful, and afflictive dealings with His beloved people!


"And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." John 17:19

Christ is glorified in the progressive holiness of His people. "The kingdom of God is within you," says our Lord. The increase of this kingdom is just the measure and extent of the believer's advance in sanctification. This is that internal righteousness, the work of God the Holy Spirit, which consists in the subjugation of the mind, the will, the affections, the desires, yes, the whole soul; to the government and supremacy of Jesus; "bringing into captivity," says the apostle, "every thought to the obedience of Christ."

O you who are "striving against sin." Longing to be "conformed to the image of God's Son," panting to be more "pure in heart," "hungering and thirsting for righteousness," think that in every step which you take in the path of holiness; in every corruption subdued; in every besetting sin laid aside; in every holy desire begotten; Christ is glorified in you! But you perhaps reply, "The more I strive for the mastery, the more I seem to be conquered. The stronger I oppose my sins, the stronger my sins seem to be."

But what does this prove? It proves that "God is working in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure"; that the kingdom of God is invading the kingdom of Satan; that the Spirit dwelling in the heart is warring with the flesh. It is truly remarked by Owen, that "if a believer lets his sins alone, his sins will let him alone." But let him search them as with candles, let him bring them to the light, oppose, mortify, and crucify them; they will to the last struggle for the victory. And this inward warfare undeniably marks the inhabitation of God the Holy Spirit in the soul.

To see one advancing in holiness; thirsting for God; the heart fixed in its solemn purpose of entire surrender; cultivating higher views; and aiming for a loftier standard; to behold him, perhaps, carving his way to his throne through mighty opposition, "fightings without; fears within;" striving for the mastery of some besetting sin; sometimes foiling and sometimes foiled; sometimes with the shout of victory on the lip, and sometimes with the painful consciousness of defeat bowing down the heart; yet still onward; the needle of the soul, with slow and tremulous, but true and certain movement, still pointing to its glorious attraction- God; faith that can never fail; and hope that can never die; and love that can never be quenched; hanging amid their warfare and in all their weakness upon the "nail fastened in a sure place"; how is Christ, our sanctification, glorified in such a saint!

Oh, to be like Jesus! meek and lowly, gentle, kind, and forgiving, without duplicity, without deceit, without malice, without revenge, without one temper, or thought, or feeling, or look, that is unlike Him!

Beloved, mistake not the nature and the evidence of growth in sanctification. In all your self-denial in this great work, be cautious of grace-denial. You will need much holy wisdom here, lest you overlook the work of the Spirit within you. You have thought, it may be, of the glory that Christ receives from brilliant genius and profound talent, from splendid gifts and glowing zeal, from costly sacrifices, and even extensive usefulness. But have you ever thought of the glory, the far greater, richer glory, that flows to Him from a contrite spirit, a broken heart, a lowly mind, a humble walk; from the tear of godly repentance that falls when seen by no human eye, and the sigh of godly sorrow that is breathed when heard by no human ear; from the sin-abhorrence and self-loathing, the deep sense of vileness, poverty, and infirmity that takes you to Jesus with the prayer– "Lord, here I am; I have brought to You my rebellious will, my wandering heart, my worldly affections, my peculiar infirmity, my besetting and constantly overpowering sin. Receive me graciously; put forth the mighty power of Your grace in my soul, subdue all, rule all, and subjugate all to Yourself. Will it not be for Your glory, the glory of Your great name, if this strong corruption were subdued by Your grace, if this powerful sin were nailed to Your cross, if this temper so sensitive, this heart so impure, these affections so truant, this mind so dark, these desires so earthly, these pursuits so carnal, and these aims so selfish, were all entirely renewed by Your Spirit, sanctified by Your grace, and made each to reflect Your image? Yes, Lord, it would be for Your glory, through time and through eternity."


"What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power." Ephesians 1:19

Divine power, not less than love, is a perfection we shall require at every step of our yet untried and unknown path. We shall have needs which none but the power that multiplied the five loaves to supply the hunger of the five thousand can meet; difficulties, which none but the power that asks, "Is anything too hard for me? says the Lord," can overcome; enemies, with whom none but the power that resisted Satan, vanquished death, and broke from the grave, can cope. All this power is on our side, if our trust is in the Lord. "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth," exclaims Jesus. This power which the Lord exerts on our behalf, and in which He invites us to trust, is made perfect in weakness.

Hence, we learn the same lesson that teaches us the utter lack of strength in ourselves. And when the Lord has reduced our confidence, and weakened our strength, as in the case of Gideon, whose army He reduced from thirty-two thousand men to three hundred, He then puts forth His power, perfects it in our weakness, gives us the victory, and secures to Himself all the praise. Go forward, relying upon the power of Jesus to do all in us, and accomplish all for us: power to subdue our sins; power to keep our hearts; power to uphold our steps; power gently to lead us over rough places, firmly to keep us in smooth places, skillfully to guide us through crooked paths, and safely to conduct us through all perils, fully to vindicate us from all assaults, and completely to cover our heads in the day of battle. Invincible is that soul thus clad in the panoply of Christ's power.

The power which belongs to Him as God, and the power which He possesses as Mediator, is all exerted in the behalf of those who put their trust in Him. "You have given Him power," are His own words, "over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him." Child of God! gird yourself for duties, toils, and trials, "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." And when the stone of difficulty confronts you; lying, perhaps, heavily upon some buried mercy; hear Him ask you, before he rolls it quite away; "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" Oh, that your trusting heart may instantly respond, "Yes, Lord, I believe, I trust; for with You all things are possible."


"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever." John 14:16

He dwells in the believer as an abiding Spirit. It is a permanent indwelling. Our dear Lord laid especial stress upon this feature. When on the eve of leaving His disciples to return to His kingdom, He promised them "another Comforter," whose spiritual presence should more than repair the loss of his bodily absence. And, lest there should be any painful apprehensions as to the time of His dwelling with them, He assures those who the Spirit should abide with them forever. Overlook not this truth. Let no spiritual darkness, no workings of unbelief, nor sense of indwelling sin, rob you of the comfort and consolation which a believing view of it will impart.

There may be periods when you are not sensible of the indwelling of the Spirit; clouds and darkness may be around this doctrine; there may be severe trials, gloomy providences, foreboding fears; the way rough and intricate; the sky dark and wintry; faith small; unbelief powerful; and your soul, from its low depths, led to exclaim, "All these things are against me. Will the Lord cast me off forever? and will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? does his promise fail for evermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?"

Oh, do not forget that even then, dejected saint of God; then, when all is dark within, and all is desolate without; then the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, the Comforter, the Glorifier of Jesus, dwells in you, and shall be with you forever. True, you may be assailed by powerful corruptions, the "consolations of God" may be small with you, and your prayer like David's "Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me;" yet He, the blessed Indweller, is there, and His still, small, and soothing voice shall before long be heard amid the roaring of the tempest, hushing it to a peaceful calm.

He shall "abide with you forever." No wanderings, no neglect, no unkindness, no unworthiness, no unfaithfulness shall ever force Him from our bosom. He may withdraw His sensible presence; He may withhold His comforting influence; He may be so grieved by a careless walk as to suspend for a while His witnessing and sanctifying power, permitting indwelling corruptions for a moment to triumph; but He restores the soul; He brings it back again; breaks the heart, then binds it up; wounds, then heals it; fills it with godly grief, then tunes it with thanksgiving and the voice of melody.


"And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." 1 John 5:15

Believing prayer is prevailing, successful prayer. It assails the kingdom of heaven with holy violence, and carries it as by storm. It believes that God has both the heart and the arm; both the love that moves Him, and the power that enables Him; to do all and to grant all that His pleading child requests of Him. We may mention a few of the attributes of believing prayer.

It is real prayer, because it is the expression of need. It springs from a felt necessity of the mercy which it craves. It is sincere prayer, welling up from a soul schooled in the knowledge of its deep poverty and need. Oh, how much passes for real prayer which is not prayer; which is not the breathing of the soul, nor the language of the heart, nor the expression of need. There is in it no true approach to God, no thirsting for Christ, no desire for holiness. Were God to bestow the things which had been so thoughtlessly and heartlessly asked, the individual would be taken by surprise.

The prayer of faith is importunate and persevering. It will not take a refusal. It will not be put off with a denial. Thus Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the covenant until he prevailed; "I will not let you go until you bless me." Thus the woman of Canaan would not release the Savior from her hold until He had granted her suit; "If I am a dog, satisfy me with the crumbs." And thus, too, the man who besieged the house of his friend at midnight for bread, and did not go away until he obtained it; and the oppressed widow, who sought justice at the hands of the unrighteous and reluctant judge until he righted her; illustrate the nature of that prayer; even earnest, persevering prayer, which prevails with God, and obtains the blessing.

Believing prayer is humble. How low in the dust the truly importunate suppliant lies before God! There is nothing of bold ruffianism, of unholy freedom, in the cases of earnest prayer which we have cited. There is no irreverence of manner, nor brashness of speech, nor rushing into God's holy presence as if He were an equal. But rather that awful consciousness of the Divine presence, that profound spirit of self-abasement which seems to say, "How dreadful is this place!" "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand upon my mouth." Oh, how lowly is the heart from where arises the incense of believing prayer! How utterly unworthy it feels of the least of all the Lord's mercies; how unfit to be a channel of grace to others; and with what trembling it lies prostrate upon the spot where God, the Triune God, is passing by! "Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few."

Submission is another attribute of the prayer of faith. Its utmost range of request is bounded, and its deepest fervor of spirit is chastened, by submission to the Divine will. It presumes neither to dictate to God, nor to counsel Him. It leaves the mode of answering its petitions; the time, the place, the way; with God. Trained, perhaps, in the school of bitter disappointment, it has learned to see as much love in God's heart in withholding as in granting its requests; as much wisdom in delaying as in promptly bestowing the blessing. And, seeing that delays in prayer are not denials of prayer, he who believes will not make haste to anticipate the Divine mind, or to antedate the Divine blessing. "Your will, not mine, be done," ever breathes from the praying lip of faith.

Yet another and the crowning attribute of believing prayer is; that it is presented in the name of Jesus. As it is life from God through Christ, so through Christ it is life breathed back again to God. It approaches the Divine Majesty by the "new and living way"; its mighty argument, and its one prevailing plea, is the atoning blood of Jesus. This is the ground of its boldness, this the reason of its nearness, and this the secret of its power and success. "Whatever you shall ask in my name," observes Christ, "that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."


"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:4

You feel yourself to be the very chief of sinners. You seem to stand out from the great mass, a lone and solitary being; more vile, polluted, guilty, and lost than all. Your sentiments in reference to yourself, to the world, to sin, to God, and to Christ, have undergone a rapid, total, and surprising change. Yourself you see to be guilty and condemned; the world you feel to be a worthless portion, a cheat, and a lie; sin you see to be the blackest and most hateful of all other things; God you regard in a light of holiness, justice, and truth you never did before; and Christ, as possessing an interest entirely new and overpowering. Your views in relation to the law of God are reversed. You now see it to be immaculately holy, strictly just, infinitely wise. Your best attempts to obey its precepts you now see are not only utterly powerless, but in themselves are so polluted by sin that you cannot look at them without the deepest self-loathing. The justice of God shines with a glory unseen and unknown before. You feel that in now bringing the condemnatory sentence of the law into your conscience He is strictly holy, and were He now to send you to eternal woe He would be strictly just.

But ah! what seems to form the greatest burden? What is that which is more bitter to you than wormwood or gall? Oh, it is the thought that ever you should have lifted your arm of rebellion against so good, so holy, so just a God as He is. That ever you should have cherished one treasonous thought, or harbored one unkind feeling. That your whole life, thus far, should have been spent in bitter hostility to Him, His law, His Son, His people; and that yet in the midst of it, yes, all day long, He has stretched out His hand to you, and you did not regard it!

Oh, the guilt that rests upon your conscience! Oh, the burden that presses your soul! Oh, the sorrow that wrings your heart! Oh, the pang that wounds your spirit! Is there a posture of lowliness more lowly than all others? You would assume it. Is there a place in the dust more humiliating than all others? You would lie in it. And now you are looking wistfully around you for a refuge, a resting-place, a balm, a quietness for the tossing of the soul.

Beloved, is this your real state? Are these your true feelings? Blessed are you of the Lord! "Blessed, do you say?" Yes! Those tears are blessed! Those humbling, lowly views are blessed! That broken heart, that contrite spirit, that awakened, convinced, and wounded conscience, even with all its guilt, is blessed! Why? because the Spirit, who convinces men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, has entered your soul, and wrought this change in you. He has opened your eyes, to see yourself lost and wretched. He has broken the spell which the world had woven round you. He has dissolved the enchantment, discovered the delusion, and made you to feel the powers of the world to come. Then you are blessed.


"But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that hears the word, and anon with joy receives it; yet has he no root in himself, but endures for awhile: for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. Matthew 13:20-22

"The rocky soil represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But like young plants in such soil, their roots don't go very deep. At first they get along fine, but they wilt as soon as they have problems or are persecuted because they believe the word. The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good News, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this life and the lure of wealth, so no crop is produced." Matthew 13:20-22

A season of prosperity often proves fatal to a profession of godliness. Divine providence smiles, riches increase, and with them the temptations and the snares, the luxury, indulgence, and worldly show which are inseparable from the accumulation of unsanctified and unconsecrated wealth. And what are the results? In most cases, the entire relinquishment of the outward garb of a religious costume. Found to be in the way of the full indulgence of the carnal mind, it is laid aside altogether; and thus freed from all the restraints which consistency imposed, the heart at once plunges deep into the world it all the while secretly loved, sighed for, and worshiped. Oh, what a severe but true test of religious principle is this! How soon it detects the spurious and the false! How soon does the verdure wither away! "The prosperity of fools shall destroy them."

But if a professing man passes through this trial, and still retains his integrity; still walks closely and humbly with God; still adheres to the lowly cross-bearing path of Jesus; is still found as diligent in waiting upon God in public and private means of grace; is still as meek, condescending, and kind, increasing in devotedness, liberality, and love, with the increase of God's providential goodness around him, such a man has the "root of the matter in him;" and "he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." His prosperity has not destroyed him.

A time of adversity is often equally as fatal to a profession of religion, founded upon no true Christian principle. If in the smooth path we are apt to slide, in the rough path we may stumble. Periods of great revolution in the history of the Christian Church, when God tries the principles, the conscience, the love, and the faith of His people, are test-periods. What numbers make shipwreck then of their high profession! And when God enters the pleasant garden of a man's domestic blessings, and blows upon the lovely blossom, or blights the fair flower, or severs the pleasant bough, or scatters the hard-earned wealth of years, or wastes the body's vigor, or frustrates the fond scheme; how does an unrenewed man behave himself?

Is his carriage humble, submissive, child-like? Does stern Christian principle now exhibit itself, in beautiful contrast with the trial that has called it forth? Does divine grace, like the aromatic flower, now appear the sweeter and more precious for its being crushed? Does not every feeling of the heart rise in maddened rebellion against God and against His government? Ah, yes! how accurately does Christ describe his case: "he has not root in himself, but endures for a while; for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended."


"Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous." Hebrews 12:11

There is often a severity, a grievousness in the chastisements of our covenant God, which it is important and essential for the end for which they were sent, not to overlook. He who sent the chastisement appointed its character– He intended that it should be felt. There is as much danger in underrating as in overrating the chastisements of God. It is not uncommon to hear some of God's saints remark, in the very midst of His dealings with them, "I feel it to be no cross at all; I do not feel it an affliction; I am not conscious of any peculiar burden."

Is it not painful to hear such expressions from the lips of a dear child of God? It betrays a lack, so to speak, of spiritual sensitiveness; a deficiency of that tender, acute feeling which ought ever to belong to him who professes to have reposed on Jesus' bosom. Now we solemnly believe that it is the Lord's holy will that His child should feel the chastisement to be grievous; that the smartings of the rod should be felt. Moses, Jacob, Job, David, Paul, all were made to exclaim, "The Lord has sorely chastened me."

When it is remembered that our chastisements often grow out of our sin; that to subdue some strong indwelling corruption, or to correct for some outward departure, the rod is sent; this should ever humble the soul; this should ever cause the rebuke to be rightly viewed; that were it not for some strong indwelling corruption, or some step taken in departure from God, the affliction would have been withheld; oh how should every stroke of the rod lay the soul in the dust before God! "If God had not seen sin in my heart, and sin in my outward conduct, He would not have dealt thus heavily with me." And where the grievousness of the chastisement is not felt, is there not reason to suspect that the cause of the chastisement has not been discovered and mourned over?

There is the consideration, too, that the stroke comes from the Father who loves us; loves us so well, that if the chastisement were not needed, there would not be a feather's weight laid on the heart of his child. Dear to Him as the apple of His eye, would He inflict those strokes, if there were not an absolute necessity for them? "What! Is it the Father who loves me that now afflicts me? Does this stroke come from His heart? What! Does my Father see all this necessity for this grievous chastening? Does He discover in me so much evil, so much perverseness, so much that He hates and that grieves Him, that this severe discipline is sent?" Oh how does this thought, that the chastisement proceeds from the Father who loves him, impart a keenness to the stroke!

And then there is often something in the very nature of the chastisement itself that causes its grievousness to be felt. The wound may be in the tenderest part; the rebuke may come through some idol of the heart; God may convert some of our choicest blessings into sources of the keenest sorrow. How often does He, in the wisdom and sovereignty of His dealings, adopt this method! Abraham's most valued blessing became the cause of his acutest sorrow. The chastisement may come through the beloved Isaac. The very mercy we clasp to our warm hearts so fondly may be God's voice to us, speaking in the tone of severe yet tender rebuke. Samuel, dear to the heart of Eli, was God's solemn voice to His erring yet beloved servant.

Let no afflicted believer, then, think lightly of his chastisements– it is the Lord's will that he should feel them. They were sent for this purpose. If I did not feel the cross, if I was not conscious of the burden, if the wound were not painful, I should never take it to the mercy-seat, there to seek all needed grace, support, and strength. The burden must first be felt, before it is cast upon the Lord; the chastisement must be felt to be grievous, before the tenderness and sympathy of Jesus will be sought.

There is equal danger of overrating our afflictions. When they are allowed too deeply to absorb us in grief; when they unfit us for duty; keep us from walking in the path God has marked out for us; hold us back from prayer and from the means of grace; when they lead us to think harshly and speak severely of God; then we overrate God's chastisements, and prevent the good they were so kindly sent to convey.


"Nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who are exercised thereby." Hebrews 12:11

The very wisdom seen in this method of instruction– the sanctified discipline of the covenant, proves its divine origin. Had the believer been left to form his own school, adopt his own plan of instruction, choose his own discipline, and even select his own teacher, how different would it have been from God's plan! We would never have conceived the idea of such a mode of instruction, so unlikely, according to our poor wisdom, to secure the end in view. We would have thought that the smooth path, the sunny path, the joyous path, would the soonest conduct us into the glories of the kingdom of grace; would more fully develop the wisdom, the love, the tenderness, the sympathy of our blessed Lord, and tend more decidedly to our weanedness from the world, our crucifixion of sin, and our spiritual and unreserved devotedness to His service. But "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Nor is the believer fully convinced of the wisdom of God's method of procedure until he has been brought, in a measure, through the discipline; until the rod has been removed, the angry waves have subsided, and the tempest cloud has passed away. Then, reviewing the chastisement, minutely examining its nature and its causes; the steps that led to it; the chain of providences in which it formed a most important link; and most of all, surveying the rich covenant blessings it brought with it– the weanedness from the world, the gentleness, the meekness, the patience, the spirituality, the prayerfulness, the love, the joy; he is led to exclaim, "I now see the infinite wisdom and tender mercy of my Father in this affliction. While in the furnace I saw it not; the rising of inbred corruption, unbelief, and hard thoughts of God darkened my view, veiled from the eye of my faith the reason of the discipline; but now I see why and wherefore my covenant God and Father has dealt with me thus: I see the wisdom and adore the love of His merciful procedure."

Other discipline may mortify, but not humble the pride of the heart; it may wound, but not crucify it. Affliction, sanctified by the Spirit of God, lays the soul in the dust; gives it low thoughts of itself. Gifts, attainments, successful labors, the applause of men, all conspire the ruin of a child of God; and, but for the prompt and often severe discipline of an ever-watchful, ever-faithful God, would accomplish their end. But the affliction comes; the needed cross; the required medicine; and in this way are brought out "the peaceable fruits of righteousness;" the most beautiful and precious of which is a humble, lowly view of self.