« السابقةمتابعة »
sure to have it will not so take him by surprise; and, when trial thus meets the subject of it in a state of reconciliation to it, a condition of soul has already been given, the which the affliction or trial was intended of God instrumentally to produce. Hence, so to speak, both time and additional trouble are saved. The Lord's loving purpose is to bring His dear children to His footstool; and, if this trial or that affliction does not suffice to effect such object, further means must be adopted.
If we mistake not, some years ago we gave an illustration upon this point from our own little life. Should the reader recollect it, he will kindly, for the sake of others, bear with the repetition. Under a severe bereavement, in which the poor fleshly heart was smitten to the very core, we fancied ourselves standing as it were upon the edge of a circle; directly opposite to the part on which we stood was a little spot called " SUBMISSION.” Thought we, “ To that spot we must come before we can be at peace or rest. If we travel round the circle to the right hand or the left, both additional time and labour will be involved; but, if by grace we are enabled to strike directly across to the spot which we see before us, both time and toil will be saved.” By this simple figure we were, of the Lord's great mercy, enabled so much the sooner to say, “ It is the Lord ; let Him do as seemeth Him good.'
Ah, reader, it is a blessed state to be brought to. Would that you and ourselves knew more about it personally and experimentally. We
say, in our judgment, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" At the same time, what contention and dissatisfaction there is in our poor fallen flesh, at the very moment we know in our better and brighter mind, “He doeth all things well;" and that nothing ever has arisen or can arise to militate against or interfere with that glorious truth, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
Surely, dear reader, by this time we ought to have learnt a something; it is high time we had attained to some little knowledge, and at least to a small measure of calm and holy dependence upon Him in whose hands our times are: but, alas ! alas! is it not as true of us to-day—aye, if possible, more true than ever-_“O fools, and slow of heart to believe !"
It is a wonderful thing—but his very language confirms the truth of it—that Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, raised to so high and glorious an office-should be in such ignorance as to the nature and the details of the things which awaited him. This very fact crushes the pride, the self-sufficiency, and the vain fleshly confidence of those who would fain arrogate to themselves light, and knowledge, and power, as being the boasted successors of the apostles. If such a man as Paul (to whom the Lord, in all probability, communicated as much or more of His holy mind and will, than to any other creature living) was compelled to declare he was “bound in the spirit,” and knew not
what awaited' him, what shall be said of these poor ignorant mortals —these would-be apostolic followers—who have not as yet learnt the very alphabet of divinity ?
Yet Paul was not ashamed of his want of foresight or knowledge in this respect. Nay, he knew it was according to the nature and operations of faith, that he shonld live and walk in ignorance of what the morrow should develop. He was content that the future should be in the hands and under the direction and control of Him who is infinite in wisdom and boundless in love.
Dear reader, the apostle sets us a striking example. Oh for grace to follow it! Oh for that special inwrought . power 'of and by the Holy Ghost, to be enabled to say as the Psalmist, “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; and let me not fall into the hand of man!”
You will observe, dear reader, as we have already intimated, that, although the apostle was in ignorance of the precise nature of the things that were about to befal him, yet there was, at the same time, a thorough conviction that trial and affliction were his portion. There can be no doubt that his mind was deeply imbued with the testimony that the Lord Himself had given concerning him : "I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake." All he had been called to pass through, from his marvellous conversion up to that moment, had gone to ratify and confirm this; and no doubt his mind was equally established in the fact, that there was to be no changeno cessation—no truce in this ceaseless warfare. He knew full well the meaning of the truth of which he elsewhere testified: “Unto you it is given, on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe but to suffer for His sake." Oh, why was the soul of the apostle so perpetually in such spiritual health and prosperity? Because he was the subject of sanctified trial-blessed affliction. This in the hand of God instrumentally ministered to his spiritual and eternal well-being. It was this mellowed and meekened him-aye, and meetened him for the kingdom too. Who better knew than he the great fact that “tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost ?”
Beloved, although the apostle so well knew that “ bonds and afflictions were in readiness and waiting for him, how sweet is the contemplation of the holy calmness and blessed surrender of which he was the subject! Now, we do not believe that even the great apostle of the Gentiles always experienced and enjoyed this to the same degree. We think there are other portions of his writings from which it is clearly to be inferred, that there was the carnal opposition and the natural antagonism to the will and purpose of God. But here was the greater subduing of that natural resistance. The passage before us is in blessed keeping with what he says in his last chapter to the Philippians, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.'
We believe, moreover, that, as with the apostle, so with all the Lord's dear children, when they are thoroughly brought down ; when they have not a thought to indulge, nor a word to say, against what may be the Lord's loving will and pleasure, they have well nigh learnt all that the Lord intends to teach them upon earth. Such was certainly the case with Paul. When he could say, “None of these things move me,” he was brought by grace and power divine into a oneness of heart with God. He had not the least wish or desire whatever to say or to do aught that was contrary to the Lord's holy mind and will. He was content to be or to suffer that which the Lord had appointed for him. It was a blessed frame of mindan enviable condition indeed. It is the contention, the resistance, the hostility, the self-will, that engender the strife, and the restlessness, and the dissatisfaction; but oh, how different when the soul is enabled, under the precious power of the Holy Ghost, simply and entirely to fall into the hands of the Lord, with a positive and an absolute “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt, Lord.”
Reader, this is easy to write or read, but not so easy to learn. It is by no simple process, nor by any very ready means, that the soul is brought to this. Oh, no, the proud heart of poor fallen man takes a great deal to humble it; but, when thus humbled, how sweet it is to lie low at His blessed footstool, willing to be or to suffer all that the Lord may see good for us. How true in such case are the words of blessed Toplady,
“Sweet to lie passive in His hands,
And know no will but His.”
What a precious saying is that, “Neither count I my life dear unto myself !” Ah, reader, this is a wonderful thought. The apostle does not here speak of mere circumstances, comforts, advantages, and the like; but, far above and beyond all this, he testifies that he is indifferent about his very life. Not that he would fritter away that life; not that he would cease to regard it as a precious loan entrusted, in a certain sense, to his care and keeping ; a precious boon from the Lord, to be regarded as such during His will and pleasure. No, there was no lack of this consciousness upon the part of the apostle. But this is his meaning, that he would not regard his own personal life and temporal well-being as of the very slightest importance, if so be the cause with which he was identified should require its sacrifice. How marked is the apostle's language in this respect, in his epistle to the Philippians: "Yea, and if I be offered (margin, poured forth] upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with ycu all;" and, in his second epistle to Timothy, he seems to have taken a step still further in advance, for there he says, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” How special and how blessed is that secret of suffering for the Lord, whilst engaged in His service. Labour, it may be, entails, mentally or physically, a tax upon creature-strength; yet, to feel that such entailment is in the Lord's service, there is, we contend, a satisfaction in it that none but those who have been called to it can imagine. Suffering for the Lord ! service for the Lord ! sacrifices for the Lord ! Ah, reader, there is something special-peculiar-unspeakably blessed in this; and yet not one iota of creature merit or worthiness in it. It is all of grace !
But, whilst there was upon the part of the apostle, great submission to the will of God, and an absolute and entire surrender into His hands, there was, at the same time, a certain solicitude-a holy concern-a matter of deep, deep personal anxiety; it was what was embodied in the utterance,“ So that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.”
Now, Paul was no time-server, nor had he entered the ministry (as, alas ! too many do) for a name—as a mere profession-or to obtain a respectable livelihood. On the contrary, as he tells us in his epistle to the Philippians, on Christ's account, "he had suffered the loss of all things, and counted them but dung, that he might win Christ." But, in the very spirit which he manifested to the Corinthians, when he says, “ Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway," he here, with respect to the selfsame subject of the ministry, is intensely anxious that his dying as well as his living testimony should be all that accords with truth-that is, in soundness of doctrine, purity of life, a character irreproachable before angels, devils, and men.
Yes, the apostle's one grand object and aim was, that as in life by grace divine he had been enabled to pursue a course in thorough keeping with the doctrines he proclaimed, so in death he most ardently desired that the selfsame grace might shine in all its purity, dignity, and power.
Men may call this legal, if they please ; but we contend that such was the prominent and all-prevailing wish, desire, aim, and object of the apostle. It was not that he simply craved and sought after salvation for himself, but as, with regard to life, he said, in his epistle to Titus, that "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus ii. 11, 12); so now, in the prospect of the closing up of that personal ministry with which he had been entrusted of the Lord, he most fervently desired it should be such as would honour the Lord, magnify the riches of His grace, and illustrate, ratify, and confirm the Gospel he had proclaimed.
Reader, this is a matter of no small importance; and, taking our stand as we do at the present upon the threshold of another year, with all its unseen and undeveloped realities, it is a subject of paramount importance, that, whilst waiving every other consideration as of secondary moment, we should deeply drink into the spirit of the apostle, and adopt his language : “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts xx. 24). In other words, it is as if he would say, "Lord, whatever befalls me, or let my exit from time and the world be in whatever way it may seem good in Thy sight, only let it be in such a way as shall ratify and establish Thy truth, magnify the riches of Thy grace, and glorify Thy great and ever-adorable name."
Dear reader, if, in a word, we would have a simple illustration of what was the apostle's one wish and desire with respect to the closing up of his personal ministry, we have it in the happy and unspeakably blessed dying experience of the first martyr, Stephen. Having delivered his testimony in all the fulness, fearlessness, and power of a man richly anointed and imbued with the Holy Ghost, we read that " when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts vii. 54 - 60).
Reader, Paul having been the eye-witness of this glorious triumph over sin, Satan, the world, and death, think you not that it was the like triumph he personally desired ? St. Luke's, Bedminster, Dec. 14, 1870.
THE EVER-WATCHFUL EYE AND TIMELY HELP OF GOD. I RECOLLECT Mr. Wills told me that some years after the play-house being shut up, he went to survey it respecting its eligibility for a chapel, as Lady Huntingdon had thoughts of engaging it for that purpose. On entering he passed two persons, one of whom paid his respects to Mr. W. in a very polite manner, which Mr. W. returned. After he had passed, the companion of this gentleman said, “ Pray, do you know that gentleman ?” To which the other replied, “Know him! Yes. I have reason to know him; he preached a sermon in the Market-place some time back, on my benefit night. The house was nearly empty, and all the people flocked to hear him.” Another circumstance, which from its singularity deserves notice, I mention in this place. Preaching, in the course of one of his long journeys, at Lady H.'s chapel in Bristol, he was led to the following passage for his text :—“My grace is sufficient for thee.” In the course of the sermon he took occasion to relate the circumstance of a young woman, who knew and loved the Lord, but was labouring under a