Daily Readings for August.
Say ye to the righeous, that it shall be well with them: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Isaiah 3. 10. Therefore, Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end that man is peace. Psalm 37. 37.
Many are for having that first which is not to be expected till the end; they would be glad of triumph, but will not fight; for waiting for the Lord seems to them too long: but for the most glorious promises we must often wait the longest. Jacob was obliged to wait longer than Esau, though he had greater promises than he: and how long was it before the promise of Christ, the greatest of all, was accomplished? It ought therefore well to be observed that it is said at last, "It shall be well with the righteous, and the the end of the upright is peace;" when his faith, love, and patience are tried in the furnace of affliction, then the acceptable year shall come, and the blessed days of joy shall appear.
As sparks break out of burning coals,
And still are upward borne;
So grief is rooted in our souls,
And man grows up to mourn.
Yet with my God I leave my cause,
And trust his promised grace;
He rules me by his well-known laws
Of love and righteousness.
Not all the pains that e'er I bore
Shall spoil my future peace;
For death and hell can do no more,
Than what my Father please.
Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. Psalm 26. 2. Search me, O God, and know my heart; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139. 23, 24.
Would David, the man after God's own heart, not trust himself, but present his heart to the Lord to be tried? much less can or ought we to trust our hearts; for "he that trust in his own heart," says the wise man, "is a fool." Proverbs 28. 26. We have more reason to be afraid of our own hearts than of all our enemies. It is not necessary for us to know when, or by what means, the Lord searches our hearts; but every one that is really in a state of grace, and walk in the fear of the Lord, will pray him to search the heart, and deliver him from every wicked way. The Holy Spirit hath various ways of searching the hearts of his people, and make use of the different means with the same person. We are not to limit the mode or extent of his operations; but it is our duty to pray that he will in everything guide us in the way that leadeth to everlasting life. Some may be worked upon very differently from what we have been; but the whole is under the direction of infinite wisdom, and tends to manifest the glory of Divine grace in our salvation.
Lord, search my soul, try every thought;
Though my own heart accuse me not
Of walking in a false disguise,
I beg the trial of thine eyes.
Lord, all my desire is before thee. Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.
Psalm 38, 9; 86. 11.
Encouraged by thy blessed word of promise, O Lord, that before men call thou wilt answer, and whilst they are yet speaking thou wilt hear, Isaiah 65. 24. I now draw nigh to thee, and present my supplication before thee. Teach me, by thy word and Spirit, the things of my everlasting peace; let my soul be cast into the mould of the gospel. and let me be obedient to thy will in all things. Manifest thyself to me, as thou dost not to the world; show me my inward corruptions, and let me see into the depth of iniquity that is in my heart; grant me the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom; incline my heart unto thy testimonies; lead me into all truth; help me to learn that he that believeth shall not make haste; restrain the impetuosity of my natural temper, that I may do all things deliberately, as becometh one that feareth alway, that is ever looking unto thee for direction. Lord, preserve me calm in my spirit, gentle in my commands and watchful that I speak not unadvisedly with my lips; moderate in my purposes; yielding in my temper, where the honour of God is not immediately concerned; and ever steadfast where needful. Lord, grant me thy protection, and may thy blessing be upon me, that I may not bring an evil report upon that good land I was permitted to spy out; but walk honourably through the wilderness, and pass triumphantly over Jordan into Canaan. Amen.
Be with me, Lord, where'er I go;
Teach me what thou would'st have me do;
Suggest whate'er I think or say;
Direct me in the narrow way.
Strive to enter in at the strait gate. Luke 13. 24. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2. 12. Forgetting those things which are behind, I reach forth unto those things which are before. Philippians 3. 13.
He that feeds only upon Christ, and yet with fear and trembling works out his own salvation, is in the right way; the former preventing discouragement, and the latter presumption. Grant, O Lord, that I may still continue to fight the good fight of faith, and never look back on the flesh-pots of Egypt, but rather choose "to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." May the painful death which thou sufferedst on the cross have an abiding place in my heart; that thereby unbelief and slavish fear may be destroyed on the one hand, and security on the other; that I may walk at all times and in all places with holy and filial reverence, as in thy presence. Amen.
As new-born babes desire the breast,
To feed, and grow, and thrive;
So saints with joy the gospel taste,
And by the gospel live.
Grace, like an uncorrupted seed,
Abides and reigns within;
Immortal principles forbid,
The sons of God to sin.
Not by the terrors of a slave,
Do they perform his will;
But, with the noblest powers they have,
His sweet commands fulfil.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51. 10. See God's answer in Ezekiel 11. 19, 20.
A glorious promise, which may be relied on, and will certainly be fulfilled, if heartily pleaded in prayer. "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." Matthew 5. 8. In regard to justification, we are pefectly clean by Christ's atonement; but in regard to sanctification, our hearts are not perfectly clean yet, but we have still need to pray, "Create in me a clean heart." Amen. O Lord, may thy blood and Spirit cleanse and sanctify me thoroughly from all my sins. Amen.
Bless'd with the joys of innocence,
Adam our father stood;
Till he debased his soul to sense,
An ate th' unlawful food.
Now we are born a sensual race
To sinful joys inclined:
Reason has lost its native place,
And flesh enslaves the mind.
Great God, renew our ruin'd frame,
Our broken powers restore;
Inspire us with a heavenly flame,
And flesh shall reign no more.
Eternal Spirit, write thy law
Upon our inward parts;
And let the second Adam draw,
His image on our hearts.
And Enoch walked with God. Genesis 5. 24.
Happy are they who in their early days are turned from sin, themselves, and the world, by repentance towards God, and faith in the promised Seed; as Enoch was, who, from the time of his conversion, walked with God, in a continued progress in his works and ways. To "walk with God" is to come out from a sinful generation, and cleave to the Lord, as Noah and Caleb did; and God requires this of all believers, 2 Corinthians 6. 17. It is setting the Lord before our eyes continually, and fearing him always as Joseph and Nehemiah did; thereby avoiding everything that would offend him. It is also making an open profession of faith in him and zeal for his service, as our highest honour and best interest. And, further, it is such a walk as obtains a holy intimacy and communion with God, which is kept up by constant meditation, prayer, and praise; hearkening to the voice of his word and Spirit, and walking humbly before him; hearby holiness is promoted, and encouraged in the soul. Thus, "Enoch walked with God;" thus he maitained a holy confidence in him, committing all his ways to him, always expecting help from him, and rejoicing in the hope of being with him for ever.
For these happy ends the grace of God is sufficient for all that see their want and ask for it. The Lord help us to seek it, that, like Enoch, we may walk with God here below, and live with him for ever in glory. Amen.
My heart is prone to rove, I see;
Lord, plant it near thy bleeding side
Then will it kindly gaze on thee,
And in thy love and fear abide.
See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of God is. Ephesians 5. 15, 17. That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence. Philippians 1. 10. See also Luke 12. 36.
Believers have nothing more at heart than the will of God; being convinced of that, they immediately set about it at all hazards; but sometimes they cannot come to a throrough knowledge of the same without conflicts and patience, Hebrews 10. 36. For the flesh is exceedingly crafty and froward: and though often forbid to go, it is often calling out, "Howsoever let me run," 2 Samuel 18. 23. But the Lord will, nevertheless, carry them through. Yes, Lord, this thou hast done innumerable times. Oh that I might trust thee also for the time to come, and not be so weak in faith any more.
Beloved self must be denied,
The mind and will renew'd;
Passion suppress'd, and patience tried,
And vain desires subdued.
Flesh is a dang'rous foe to grace,
Where it prevails and rules;
Flesh must be humbled, and pride abased,
Lest they destroy our souls.
Lord, can a feeble, helpless worm
Fulfil so hard a task?
Thy grace must all my works perform,
And give the free reward.
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. 1 Peter 4. 14, 19.
Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward is great in heaven. Luke 6. 23. Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven; but whosoever shall deny me, etc Matthew 10. 32, 33.
Every real Christian must expect persecution from the world; and though he should take heed of giving needless offence by selfwill or rash conduct of any kind, yet should he not seek to shun the cross by what some men call prudence, or a sneaking compliance with the world, but be willing to suffer everything rather than to hurt the cause of God in the least. We should openly confess Christ our Lord, and not mind being called fools by the wicked, as we know that at last they will call themselves by that name: therefore care not for the approbation and praise of the world; but count it a great honour to bear the reproach of Christ.
Bless'd are the suff'rers who partake
Of pain and shame for Jesus' sake;
Their souls shall triumph in the Lord,
Glory and joy are their reward.
The Lamb shall lead his heavenly flock
Where livng fountains rise;
And love Divine shall wipe away
The sorrows of their eyes.
Take heed to your spirit. Malachi 2. 15. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it. Jeremiah 17. 9.
Private loop-holes, sinful lusts, can hide themselves at times so well as to seem quite dead; but if we grow careless, they spring up again on a favourable occasion, and sometimes appear in a spiritual shape, and take a fine spiritual name. Thus, though the flesh exceedingly likes sensual indulgenges, yet to flatter its lust of pride, and the vanity of being thought a perfect man, it will sometimes endure great mortification. Therefore, we ought always to be jealous of ourselves, and guard as much against self-righteousness as licentiousness; for the flesh is never more fleshly and dangerous than when it has the most spiritual appearance, and covers its lusts with the holiness and spirituality of angels.
Sin has a thousand treach'rous arts
To practice on the mind:
With flatt'ring looks she tempts our hearts,
But leaves a sting behind.
With names of virtue she deceives
The aged and the young;
And while the heedless wretch believes,
She makes his fetters strong.
She pleads for all the joys she brings,
And gives a fair pretence;
But cheats the soul of heavenly things,
And chains it down to sense.
So on a tree divinely fair
Grew the forbidden food:
Our mother took the poison there,
And tainted all her blood.
O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me, let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalm 43. 3.
Divine Answer: The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Proverbs 4. 18.
The wiser we are in our own conceits, the more negligent are we in prayer, the more destitute of true wisdom and faith:- "for the Lord gives sight only to the blind, and to the babes," who pray for it. Therefore, the deepest humblings go before the greatest blessings. O my blessed Saviour, since I am always blind and ignorant of myself, if I am not guided by thine eyes, I desire always to look up to thee, and do every thing under thy direction.
Prevent me, lest I harbour pride,
Lest I in my strength confide;
Show me my weakness; let me see
I have my power, my all, from thee.
Enrich me always with thy love,
My kind protector ever prove;
The signet put upon my breast,
And let thy Spirit on me rest.
Assist and teach me how to pray,
Incline my nature to obey;
What thou abhorrest let me flee,
And only love what pleases thee.
Oh may I never do my will,
But thine, and only thine, fulfil;
Let all my time, and all my ways
Be spent and ended to thy praise.
By grace ye are saved. Ephesians 2. 5.
To rely on grace, and to desire to be saved only by free grace, is a sweet exercise; but so far from being practised enough, we all have need to learn the prayer of the publican better still, since the Pharisee is ever busy to creep in again. But care must be taken that we do not build our faith only upon the sweet enjoyments of the grace of God, as it is procured by Christ, and promised to us through Christ; for which reason God sometimes denies us sensible enjoyments, that true faith may begin to act like itself, and begin upon nothing but his free grace in Christ. And this we have also boldness to do, should we ever seem to fall short of the due measure of faith, godly sorrow, and repentance; for since there is no merit to be placed in these things. There is no certain measure and degree prescribed to all: but it is enough truly to hate sin, to desire grace, and sincerely to enter upon the Christian race.
'Tis not by works of righteousness
Which our own hands have done,
But we are saved by sov'reign grace
Abounding through his Son.
"Tis from the mercy of our God
That all our hopes begin;
"Tis by the water and the blood
Our souls are wash'd from sin.
Raised from the dead we live anew;
And justified by grace,
We shall appear in glory too,
And see our Father's face.
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law: and ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins. 1 John 3. 4, 5.
There is a far greater power in the blood of Christ to save and cleanse than in sin to defile and destroy, Romans 8. 3. The law became weak to do good, but it hath the power to condemn: "The strength of sin is the law:" the law gives strength to sin, because, by virtue of the curse of the law, sin reigns, and defiles the soul of men, through that righteous curse, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." But the blood of Jesus Christ hath greater power to save that sin, together with the law, hath to condemn: for the blood of Christ's takes away and abolishes it utterly; where this blood is applied and brought home, sin itself cannot ruin the soul. The soul is poisoned and corrupted by sin; but the blood of Christ takes away the guilt of sin, yet not the being of it. as we are sanctified but in part, we can only be earnest at the throne of grace that we may be kept by almighty power, and that Jesus may be for us, who is stronger than all that can come against us.
O dear incarnate Son of God,
Well wash me in thy precious blood;
Castng all my guilt into that sea,
And let no lust have power o'er me.
Be not as the horse, or as the mile, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. Psalm 32. 9. Therefore, If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of sojourning here in fear. 1 Peter 1. 17.
Reader, dost thou believe there is a God, and that he will shortly judge thee for every evil action thou hast done, for all the secret iniquity of thy bosom? -- how then canst thou meet thy Judge, unless thy heart be changed and thy sins are pardoned? There will be no room for dissembling, excusing, or escaping then. Begin, therefore, in time, O wretched man, to consider how you must appear before the awful judgment-seat! The door of mercy is yet open. Oh! call upon the Lord Jesus for repentance and pardon, before the door is shut, and thou be lost for ever.
The Thirteenth of August.
O God, mine inmost soul convert,
And deeply on my thoughtful heart
Eternal things impress
Give me to feel their sovereign weight
And tremble on the brink of fate,
And wake to righteousness
Be this my one great business here,
With serious industry and fear,
My future bliss t'ensure;
Thine utmost counsel to fulfil,
And suffer all thy righteous will,
And to the end endure.
Be strong and of good courage. I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Only be thou strong and courageous. O sweet commandment! Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. O glorious promise! Joshua 1. 5-7, 9. I have even called thee by thy name; I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. Isaiah 45. 4.
God calls upon us to be strong in faith; and strong faith will make men cheerful and courageous, and enable them to overcome diffulties. Therefore, if thy feet and heart are bound for Canaan, trust stoutly in the Lord to carry thee safely through. Feeble as thou art, yet go on, and fear nothing, for God is with thee. He that has but this one care and fear, not to displease God, need not care for, or fear, anything else; his safety is ensured in the promise of God, who will keep him harmless in all things.
Awake, our souls, away our fears,
Let every trembling thought be gone;
Awake, and run the heavenly race,
And put a cheerful courage on.
True, 'tis a strait and thorny road,
And mortal spirits tire and faint;
But they forget the mighty God,
Who feeds the strength of every saint.
From Him, the overflowing spring,
Our souls shall drink a fresh supply;
While such as trust their native strength
Shall melt away, and droop, and die.
Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! John 1. 29. These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple. Revelations 7. 14, 15.
He that washes himself continually in the blood of Christ does not make light of sin, but detests it above all things; for what can be more abominable than sin, since it cannot be taken away but by the blood of the Son of God? This humbles true believers, and makes them watch against sin; and if it has not the same effect on thee, reader, matters are not right with thy soul; for, talking of the blood of the Lamb, and yet trifling with sin, cannot agree together, but show a false or deceived heart.
Now will I hate those lusts of mine
That crucified my God;
Those sins that pierced and nail'd his flesh
Fast to the fatal wood.
Yet my Redeemer, they shall die,
My heart has so decreed;
Nor will I spare the guilty things
That made my Saviour bleed.
Whilst with a melting, broken heart,
My murder'd Lord I view
I'll raise revenge against my sins
And slay the murd'rers too.
Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward. Matthew 6. 2. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4. 8.
For this crown faith strives. And because this faith justifies, it makes the world say -- Well, I also believe: but where is is their conflict and conquest? It is answered, I rely on Christ and grace. But Canaan was also a free gift of grace, and yet it was not taken without conflicts. And, moreover, as worldly people are unacquainted with the wickedness of hearts, they do not trust alone upon grace, but on their duties and out ward form of godliness, self-love and pride still reigning in their hearts.
No works nor duties of your own,
Can for the smallest sin atone;
The robes that nature may provide
Will not your least pollutions hide.
Ye sons of pride, that kindle coals
With your own hands to warm your souls
Walk in the light of your own fire,
Enjoy the sparks ye desire.
This is your portion at my hands
Hell waits you with her iron bands
Ye shall He lie down in sorrow there,
In death, in darkness, and despair.
Let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12. 1.
He that runs and wants patience will never get to the end of his race; for in the race of God's commandments menhave foul play: One comes and rails on him for his zeal, for running so fast, when he thinks himself so slow, another gives him a blow and strikes him down: and up he gets and runs again. Every man will make room and give way to him that is in a race here; while he that runs the heavenly race may expect, and will find, many stand in his way, and stop him all they can, so that he will have great need of patience: without it everything will offend him. What is a wise man, a zealous man, without patience? He will bear nothing, suffer nothing, and can do no great good. David had many enemies that spake mischievous things against him, and laid snares for his life; but he was a deaf man that "heard not, and as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth." Saul was twice in his power, yet he would not avenge himself of him: he wanted neither courage or wisdom; he had a stirring spirit, a working head, was sensible of wrongs, knwe himself innocent, his adversaries malicious; his thoughts must needs be troubled, yet he is his own man under all; he committed his cause to God, his patience was in execise, and he waited God's time of deliverance. Christ's active and passive obedience made him in a complete Mediator. May thy active and passive obedience, reader, make thee a complete Christian.
The Seventeenth of August.
Awake, our souls, away, our fears,
Let every trembling thought be gone,
Awake, and run the heavenly race,
And put a cheerful courage on.
From Christ, the overflowing spring,
Our souls shall drink a fresh supply;
While such as trust their native strength,
Shall melt away, and droop, and die.
Should I distribute all my store
To feed the bowels of the poor;
Or give my body to the flame,
To gain a martyr's glorious name,--
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (or mercy seat) through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. Romans 3. 25.
God set forth the propitiation; from all eternity he proposed Christ to be the mercy-seat; the spring of all is from the Father, who is love; he proposed, revealed, and made Christ known to Adam, to Abraham, and to the prophets; he proposed the mercy seat as an object of faith in all the sacrifices that were types of Christ. This mercy seat is clearly and fully set forth in the gospel dispensation. In this plan the righteousness and justice of God are declared, while he vindicates the honour of his perfections and laws, and maintains the authority of his government by punishing the offences of "rebel subjects in the sufferings of the Surety, who was made sin, (an offering for sin,) that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Whither shall I, a poor sinner, conscious of guilt, and apprehensive of wrath, flee for refuge? Where shall I find it? Where, but under the covert of atoning blood! While, others have recourse to refuges of lies, and would establish a righteousness of their own, "in the Lord, my righteousness, I find rest and safety having fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before me; in Christ, my hope, I shall have strong consolation."Does Jehovah from his mercy-seat pardon me, a rebel sinner? Do I hear his voice beseeching me to be reconciled to him, through Christ, by propitiation and peace? Shall I not hear his voice of mercy, and live and joy in God, through Christ, by whom I receive atonement? Will God commune with me from his mercy-seat, and bless me with the manifestation of his love? Oh delightful interview, when most alone, retired from the world, but least alone when with my God! Oh the inexpressible pleasure of secret devotion, of a life, "hid with Christ in God!" If the contemplation of Divine love here below be so ravishing, oh what shall I experience above? My God, guide me here by thy counsels, and afterwards receive me to thy glory.
Lord, hast thou wash'd my garments clean,
In Jesus' blood, from shame and sin?
Shall I not strive, with all my power,
That sin pollute my soul no more?
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6. 24.
Doth Satan tempt thee, either by pleasures, dignities, or profits? O my soul, stand upon thy guard, gird on thy strength with such thoughts as these: What can the world profit me, if the cares of it choke me? how can pleasures comfort me, if their sting poison me? or what advancement is this, to be triumphing in honour before the face of men here, and trembling with confusion before the throne hereafter? What are the delights of the world to the peace of my conscience, or the joy that is in the Holy Ghost? what are the applauses of men to the crown prepared by God? or what is the gain of the world to the loss of my soul? The vainty of the creature is far beneath the excellency of my soul and the things of time not worthy to be mentioned with the things of eternity. Two masters of such opposite principles as God and Mammon I cannot serve; therefore, Satan, upon the most deliberate consideration, I must give thee and thy service up, for thou biddest me to my loss.
The Nineteenth of August.
Two masters are too much for me;
Nor can the world with God agree;
Then, tempting Mammon, get thee gone,
And let me serve my Christ alone.
O taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalm 34. 8. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Hebrews 13. 8.
There is infinite fulness of all spiritual blessings treasured up in Christ Jesus for all his people; and out of his fulness they do receive, even grace for grace. But alas! we are slow of heart to believe the truth: we please ourselves with small things, and come slowly forward to a daily growth out of that fulness. Young converts, enamoured with what they have in hand, or living upon their feelings, are ready to flee from knowledge as something dangerous, and destructive of holiness; and mere professors are apt to deny or even deride their precious feelings, as though the affections had no share in the Christian religion, and that the whole consisted in having a crowded head. Come then, O my soul, divest thyself of pride of party, and the strife of tongues; be thou an humble supplicant at the feet of Jesus, for a live coal from the altar, to purge away thine iniquity, and to warm thine affections; and likewise for the aid of the Holy Spirit, to lead thee into the knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. Then shalt thou not only taste, but see; not only see, but taste, both sweetly taste and clearly see that "the Lord is good."
Oh the rich depths of love Divine
Of bliss a boundless store;
Dear Saviour, let me call thee mine;
I cannot wish for more.
On thee alone my hope relies,
Beneath the cross I fall
Thou art my life, my sacrifice,
My Saviour, and my All.
We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. 1 Corinthians 2. 7.
The Twenty First of August.
There are some things declared in the gospel which are absolutely its own, they are proper and peculiar unto it; such as have no footsteps in the law, or in the light of nature, but are of pure revelation, peculiar to the gospel. Of this nature are all things concerning the love and will of God in Christ Jesus; the mystery of his incarnation, of his offices, and whole mediation, of the dispensation of the Spirit, and participation thereof, and our union with Christ thereby; our adoption, justification, and effectual sanctification, thence proceeding: in a word, everything that belongs to the purchase and application of saving grace, is of this sort. These tidings are properly evangelical, being peculiar to the gospel alone.
Hence the apostle Paul, unto whom the dispensation of it was committed, puts that eminency upon them, that (in comparison) he resolved to insist on nothing else in preaching, 1 Corinthians 2. 2. and to that purpose doth he describe his ministry, Ephesians 3. 7-11.
Reader, observe two things: What God reveals in his word, let thy reason submit unto it; what he proposes as objects or matter of faith, beg him to enable thee to believe.
The hidden wisdom of God's grace
No reason can explore;
Then help me, by the Spirit's light,
To see - believe - adore.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1. 3.
From natural constitution we earnestly expect present gratification. It is by no means sufficient, therefore to explain to us our duty or enforce it by future rewards and punishment. There must be pleasures at hand to outweigh the enticements of sin, and out bid whatever that sorceress can offer. The religion of Jesus is constituted in this manner, it brings the possession of the best hapiness here; a rich foretaste, in this life, of heavenly glory. Salvation cometh of the Lord to the sinner upon believing, just as a most ample estate bequeathed to a beggar in debt; at once it alters his whole condition, pays all he owes, supplies all he wants, gives him a rank, figure, and authority, to which before he was a perfect stranger. Such blessedness in the pardon of all my sins, in access to God with confidence, in victory over my spiritual enemies, give me, O my God, to enjoy!
Thou only Sov'reign of my heart
My refuge, my almighty Friend;
How can my soul from thee depart,
On whom alone my hopes depend?.
Eternal life thy words impart,
On these my faintings spirit lives;
Here sweeter comforts cheer my heart
Than all the round of nature gives.
Let earth's alluring joys combine,
While thou art near in vain they call
One smile, one blissful smile of thine,
My dearest Lord, out weighs them all.
Low at thy feet my soul would lie,
Here safety dwells, and peace divine
Still let me live beneath thine eye,
For life, eternal life, is thine.
Spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes: for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. Isaiah 54. 2,3.
The Twenty Third of August.
How comfortable is it to the religious man to behold an increase of the true worshippers of God! and, more especially, in that place where his soul has dwelt among lions, and been day to day "vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked." To see the banner of Christ set up there, and numbers flock unto it as doves to their windows - to see the kingdom of Satan weaken and contract, and the kingdom of God and his Christ strengthen and enlarge - to see the hand of the Lord protecting and providing for his people - going before them, like the pillar and cloud, refreshing them by day and by night - this indeed is a feast of fat things. Lord, grant that I may be thankful for what I have already seen, and may behold thy glory thus displayed more and more. And while thou lengthenest our cords, do thou enable us to strengthen our stakes, by holding fast the form of sound words, living as persons professing godliness, showing that we are Christians indeed, by love to each other, and keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Thus shall our light shine before men, and the light of the gospel break forth on the right hand and on the left, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
Arise, thou Sun of righteousness,
And bless the world with heavenly light;
Break forth, and show thy gospel grace,
Attended with thy Spirit's might.
If a man strive for masteries, yet he is not crowned, except he strive lawfully (2 Timothy 2. 5.), namely, in faith, by which we have the victory. And as the enemies return again and again, and are always crafty and strong, we must continually be in arms. Until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence. Romans 8. 33, 34.
If those cannot expect to be crowned who strive, but not lawfully, what must become of those who do not strive at all? O Lord, strengthen me therefore to get victory, for it greatly exalts thy glory, if the power of mine enemies be broken; and thy grace is able to overcome the greatest power of sin, and will destroy it effectually at last, since thou hast promised that grace shall endure, and grow, and conquer, whilst sin is condemned to death, and is actually dying more and more, when nailed to the cross of Christ.
Stand up, my soul, shake off thy fears,
And gird the gospel armour on;
March to the gates of endless joy,
Where thy great Captain Saviour's gone.
What though the prince of darkness rage,
And waste the fury of his spite?
Eternal chains confine him down
To fiery deeps and endless night,
What though thine inward lusts rebel?
'Tis but a struggling gasp for life;
The weapons of victorious grace
Shall slay thy sins and end the strife.
So thenit is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mrcy. Romans 9. 16. Thou hast a little strength. Revelations 3. 8. Go in this thy night, etc Surely I will be with thee, Judges 6. 14, 16.
The Twenty Fifth of August.
A little strength is also the strength of God through Christ, the secon Adam, and consequently stronger than the power of Satan and the first Adam, should it seem ever so strong. Nay, it is the death of the old man already, and kills him by degress more and more; till at last, when we drop this body of sin, it will destroy him entirely. Believers in such a state think themselves weaker than before they had any grace, not being able now to put such a force upon themselves as formerly; because they dare not now be wrought on by pride; for they no longer swim with the stream and expereince no resistance; but, swimming against the stream, feel the force of the current of lust. But it is to be remembered, that hypocrisy and proud nature, desirous of being seen and taken notice of, sometimes can outdo grace in outward things, and have a better appearance in the eyes of man; for real Christians, not being willing to be worked upon by nature any longer, and yet having but little strength, cannot put such a constraint upon themselves continually, but they may be in this manner tossed to and fro; which the Lord wisely permits for their good, to convince them the more of their own insufficiency and nothingness, that they may rely on the strength of the Lord. Therefore we must not give over to praying and hoping in this case; but as it is only the mercy and power of Christ which preserves and stregthens the poor and feeble, we rather ought to be more earnest in drawing near to him with all our misery, weariness, and nakedness.
Mere mortal power shall fade and die,
And youthful vigour cease;
But we that wait upon the Lord
Shall feel our strength increase.
If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 2 Peter 2. 20.
Some affirm that experienced Christians meet with no string temptations, and feel no evil suggestions from within, and of consequence no strivings against the same: but it is quite the the contrary: for beginners strive generally mor against the outward pollutions of the world, whilst the experience turn their force more against inward and spiritual iniquities. Therefore take heed to your spirit, though your meaning be ever so good, and your assurance ever so great. Be not high-minded, for fear of failing. Beware of all sins; for the least may unawares, and by degrees, draw the into many others, so as to be at last entangled in such a matter, that without great watchfulness it will be impossible to be disengaged; therefore be not deceived; flee all occasions of sin. Say not within thyself, it is a light matter, it only concerns outward things, which do not belong to the essence of Christianity: for such outward liberty, is a sure evidence of a false, inward levity of mind, and a conscience not tender. And, by conforming to the world, we give a good handle to the enemy of souls to ruin us; and by sad experience we shall be convinced, in time, that our latter end is worse than the beginning.
Oh for persevering power
To keep thy just commands;
We would defile our hearts no more,
No more pollute our hands.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12. 18.
There is much contest in the world about property; but believers taking Christ for their only property, whom nobody can take from them, have, in him alone, immense treasures and lasting peace. And since wrath and anger turn into nothing but disquietness, and are punished by themselves, why dost thou suffer thyself to be easily moved by them? The least provocation, even a single word, perhaps, will stir up the corruption of thine heart, soa s to change thy countenance, and make thee dreadful words. Therefore consider how God bears with thee, and what an abomination anger is. It is a fire from hell, the true image of the old dragon; burt being called to bear the image of God, and bring forth fruits of the good Spirit, thou art to follow the lamb-like mind f Christ: and to that purpose it is highly necessary: First, to avoid all occasions of strife and contention. Secondly, to bridle our tongue, if quarrels arise. Thirdly, to suffer when we are wronged. Fourthly, to pray directly, and quench the sparks of fire before they break out into a flame. This is the easiest and the only method to prevent great troubles, and lead a peaceful happy life; for anger carries uneasiness, and love a sweet rest in itself.
The Twenty Seventh of August.
Bless'd are the men of peaceful life,
Who quench the coals of growing strife;
They shall be call'd the heirs of bliss,
The sons of God, the God of peace.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, etc., let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts spinkled (with the blood of Christ, by which he once entered into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us, and purged our consciences from dead works to serve the living God) from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed from with pure water. Hebrews 10. 19-22.
Christ has purged our sins by himself; For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified," verse 14. And to this sprinkling of the blood of Christ all believers, even the weakest, are to come, in order to receive the forgiveness of sins. And the blood is said to be sprinkled, to show the need of its application to the conscience by the Holy spirit. In this purple fountain the believer daily washes; it is element and life. Thus he lives, alwways appying his ransom to his soul, and pleading his merits before his heavenly Father, which keeps his conscience pure and easy.
They find access at every hour
To God within the veil;
Hence they derive a quick'ning power,
And joys that never fail.
O happy soul! O glorious state
O ever-flowing grace!
To dwell so near the Father's seat,
And see his holy face.
That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them. Romans 1. 19.
There are some things declared and enjoined in the gospel which have their foundation in the law and light of nature; such are all the moral duties which are taught therein; these, the remaining light of nature, though obscurely, yet does teach and confirm: The apostle, speaking of mankind in general, says "That which may be known of God is manifest in them:" The essential properties of God, rendering our moral duty to him necessary, are known by the light of nature; and by the same light are men able to make a judgment of their actions, whether they be good or evil. Romans 2. 14, 15.The same law and light which discover these things, do also enjoin their observance. Thus is it with all men before the preaching of the gospel to them. The gospel adds two things to the minds of men. 1. It directs us to a right performance of these things, from a right principle, by a right rule, and to a right end; that so they, and we in them, may obtain acceptance with God; hereby it gives them a new nature, and turns moral duties into evangelical obedience. 2. By a communication of that Spirit which is joined to its dispensation, it supplies us with strength for their performance in the manner it directs.
The Twenty Ninth of August.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Romans 8. 35-37.
Stars shine brightest in the darkest night; torches are better for beating; grapes come not to proof, till they come to press; spices smell best when bruised; young trees root the faster for the shaking; gold looks brighter for scouring; juniper smells sweetest in the fire; the palm tree proves better for pressing; camomile, the more you tread it, the more you spread it. Such is the condition of all God's children: they are then most triumphant, when most tempted; most glorious, when most afflicted; most in the favour of God, when least in man's, and least in their own; as thrie conflicts, so their conquests; as their tribulations, so their triumphs; true salamanders, they live best in the furnace of persecution: so that heavy afflictions are the best benefactors to heavenly affections; and where afflictions hang heaviest, corruptions hang loosest; and grace that is hid in nature, as sweet water in rose leaves is then the most fragrant when the fire of affliction is put under to distil it out.
My life, and all its comforts too,
From God's abundant bounty flow;
And when he calleth back his own,
Contented I would lay it down.
Then, if men scorn, and Satan roar,
Yet, strengthen'd by the God of power,
His faithful witness I shall be;
Though weak, I can do all through Thee.
Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of the birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land, etc. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, taht art in the clefts of the rock, etc. Song of Solomon 2. 10-14.
O Lord, how often has it been winter with me, but thou hast always quickened me again. Grant that by these experiences that I may be so used to thy ways as always to expect the best from thee in everything, and to have only this one care, namely, how I may please thee as thy bride and dove, and be accepted through thee with thy Father. Let my faith be so strengthened by all thy various dealings with me, that at last I may have boldness, and find complete rest in thy wounds, my crucified Saviour, where there is room for the greatest of sinners, even for me.
The Thirty First of August.
The voice of my beloved sounds
Over the rocks and rising grounds;
O'er hills of guilt, and seas of grief,
He leaps, he flies to my relief.
Gently he draws my heart along,
Both with his beauties and his tongue;
Rise, says my Lord, make haste away
No mortal joys are worth thy stay.
The Jewish wintry state is gone,
The mists are fled, the spring comes on;
The sacred turtle-dove we hear
Proclaim the new, the joyful year.
And when we hear our Jesus say,
"Rise up, my love, make haste away!"
Our hearts would feign outfly the wind,
And leave all earthly loves behind.