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Two men may be carrying burdens apparently of equal magnitude, but one man's may contain only feathers, the other man's lead. It so much depends how we are supported under trials, seeing that unbelief makes small trials great, and faith great trials small. We none of us willingly take the cross : they laid it on Simon's back.
God, in the perfection of his wisdom, has in love determined that we shall not go altogether uncorrected, but be corrected in measure, whilst he has promised to give strength equal to the day. Thus trials are only heavy as we are engrossed in and by them; the heat of the furnace is only great as we are unable to realize the presence of the Saviour in it. Whilst we look at the circumstances that occasion our sorrow, and our eyes are fixed alone on them, a small burden becomes a great one ; but when we are enabled to look at the things which are not seen—which are eternal-a great trial becomes a small one, and our light affliction, which is but for a moment; worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Let us illustrate this point thus :- Lucknow is beseiged by the Sepoys in rebellion; the trenches are drawn each day closer to the walls until the breach is reported " practicable." All are borne down by the excessive toil and excitement, and the women especially, by the addition of fear. Just as the Sepoys are ready to storm, some of the ladies faint with fear and exhaustion, whilst a poor Scotch woman cries out, “Oh! lady, dinna faint, for from the distant hills I hear the bagpipes of the Campbells ; it is Havelock with his Highlanders coming to our help.” Thus she looked not at the numbers of the foe, the practicability of the breach, and the fewness of their own numbers, but to the approach of Havelock's band. So the soul looks not at the sick body or afflicted mind, at the false friend or trying providence, the evils of the heart or the sin of the life, but to Him whose love is eternal, whose mercy is everlasting, whose arm is not shortened, whose ear is not heavy, to the promises of His grace and the triumphs of His cross; and our afflictions, which are but for a moment, are made light. They are lightened also by seeing that, though sharp, they must be short; for they are but for a moment.
Take the stars of heaven, the sands on the sea shore, the blossoms on the trees, the register of time by its moments ; yet all united, they are nothing, as representing time in comparison with eternity. They are light in comparison with our deserts, in comparison with the sorrows of many others; but especially in comparison with our Saviour's,—the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
“How bitter that cup, no heart can conceive,
Did Jesus thus suffer, and shall I repine ?" Now it is said that this poor and afflicted people shall trust in the name of the Lord. It is not said, they ought to trust, that it will be a great advantage to trust: it is not a proposition, but a declaration, absolute in its character,-they shall trust, they shall be brought into such circumstances, that they have no one else to trust. By trust, I understand the strength of hope. To trust in God is to believe that he will perform for us, in all time, and to all eternity, such things as are according to bis Divine perfections and according to the revelation he has made of himself in his word to his people, and agreeable to his promise and the word of his grace; and prayerfully and perseveringly to wait the fulfilment of them in God's time, and in God's way.
They shall trust; He will bring them to trust by teaching them the folly of trusting to their own hearts-their own righteousness; of trusting in man-in a guide—in a friend ; they have no one to whom they can go, but Him. “They shall trust in the name of the Lord.” The Saviour said to his disciples, when some departed from him, " Will ye also go away ?" Peter said, “ To whom, Lord, can we go; thou hast the words of eternal life.” They embrace the rock for want of a shelter : their necessities drive them to Christ, who also draws them by the bands of his love. · We cannot trust one we do not know; therefore trust implies a knowledge of him we trust, and in trusting God we feel that we shall not be deceived.
When you have a sum of money to bank, you would not trust a stranger; it must be some one you believe will be faithful to the trust reposed in him. It is so with our trust in God: the knowledge we have of him by Divine teaching inspires our hearts with love to him, and trust in him, so that he is the repose of the soul. I remember a person to have said, “I can trust God better with my soul than my body ;" but this, I think, is a mistake. If we have faith to trust the major, we shall assuredly be able to trust the minor. When the being and destiny of the soul occupy the chief thoughts of a man's heart, and he is enabled to coinmit himself implicitly to God, surely he will trust hin) with his body also. Nothing is easier than trusting, when the Lord works faith in our hearts to do so; or harder, when shut up in unbelief, darkness, or bondage ; when we are filled with sorrow and under clouds of guilt and sin. For what do we trust God ? For everything. For salvation, through the full, free, finished, and everlasting work of Christ, and for the revelation of Christ to our hearts by his Holy Spirit ; and we commit our souls to his keeping, hoping for acceptance alone through his blood and righteousness. We look to him as the great propitiatory sacrifice. We trust him daily for his grace as well as for his eternal mercy; and we say with Jehoshaphat, “We have no might against this great company that cometh up against us ; but our eyes are up unto Thee."
When we rise from our beds, we have to go forth into a world of sin, and to conflict with the powers of darkness; and we cannot tell how soon a thought conceived in the heart might be carried out in action, unless kept by the Lord; for “when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin ; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
We need grace to subdue the sin of our hearts, as well as to enable us to trust for salvation, and to embolden us to sing with Toplady,
“Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
The glorified spirits in heaven.” Sin is the Christian's great trouble ; he desires to make a good confession before many witnesses, to bear the cross with patience, to live righteously and godly in this present evil world, to follow the Son of man in the regeneration, and manifest his spirit ; so that men may take knowledge of him as having learned of Him who is meek and lowly of heart. We desire to be patient under the chastening of his hand, and to be so supported and influenced by his grace as to feel that he alone is worthy of our love and confidence. So that believing that what we cannot understand now we shall know hereafter, we may say, "What time, I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.”
“ Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
In blessings on your head."
God puts his bow in the cloud : we want the bow in the clear sky. “When I bring a cloud upon the earth, my bow shall be seen in the cloud ;" my faithfulness to my promise shall be realized in affliction. “I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.”
We notice, especially, the revelation of God's name to Moses, as “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, abundant in goodness and truth."
Now the belief of these Divine perfections of Jehovah, engaged covenantly in our behalf, brings the soul to put its trust in Him,-in the abundance of the mercy and goodness, faithfulness and truth of God. God is revealed in his word by various names. David says, “ The Lord of hosts is with us (very supportingvery comforting), the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah !” The God of Jacob; notwithstanding Jacob's dissiinulation and craft, in getting both the birthright and blessing by fraud. Contemptible man! But God was with him, both at Bethel and Peniel; and He is with those who trust in him, though of sinners the very chief, exhibiting in their deliverance and salvation the riches of his grace, so that they may say, "The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah !"
They trust in Him with all their hearts, and, though prone to wander, they again and again turn unto him as their Stronghold ; they run for safety to his name. And it is their desire to trust in him at all times, even when all things appear to be against them, and to pour out their hearts before him, who can deliver them out of all troubles, and direct them in all difficulties. “He maketh the seven stars and Orion, he maketh the buds to put forth their leaves, and seals up the rivers. He maketh the day dark with night, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning. He calleth for the waters of the sea, and spreadeth them forth on the face of the earth : the Lord of hosts is his name."
Lastly, there is a blessedness that is especially theirs who are enabled to trust in him. “He that trusteth in the Lord shall be safe.” There is no realizing our tecurity but by faith in Christ. There is no safety anywhere but in the shadow of his wings. We may be afflicted and poor, but faith opens heaven's treasury, and supplies all our needs. We may be weak and trembling, but faith lays hold of the Divine promise, and out of weakness makes strong; for it enlists on our behalf the strength of God ; so that we say, “I will walk upon my high places.” Observe the security of David, who, like Zion, which cannot be moved but abideth for ever, says, “ Although my house be not so with God, although he make it not to grow, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; and this is all my salvation and all my desire. Hearken to Habakkuk: “ Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall the fruit be in the vine, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat ; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall : yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
Yes, there is a blessedness to the man who makes the Lord his trust, for, whilst “ cursed is the man that trusteth in man," and maketh flesh his arm, blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is; "for he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,” and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green.
THE CHURCH'S FOUNDATION. Outline of a Sermon preached by MR. THOMAS SPARKS, Sen., at Mottingham, Kent,
on Lord's-day evening, June 6th, 1869.
“Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Matt. xvi. 18.
THERE had been divers opinions amongst those who followed Jesus, as to who he was. He had put the question to his disciples, “Whom do men say, that I, the Son of man, am ?” They told him, “Some say, John the Baptist, some Elias, or one of the prophets.” He now asks them pointedly, “ But whom say ye that I am ?” Peter answered, and said, “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona ; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” There is no saving knowledge imparted to any poor sinner but what comes from above. Not upon Peter, but upon the confession which Peter had just made, “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” I do not believe, with the poor deluded papist, that Peter is the gatekeeper of the kingdom of heaven.
This was really fulfilled at the day of Pentecost, when Peter, by the Holy Spirit's rower, was the first to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom. 1. This rock is ancient and Divine. If Christ be not Divine, he will not do for a
poor sinner to build upon. Isaiah says, “ Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder : and his name shall be called Wonderful." Wonderful in the complex character of his person, wonderful in the work he came to perform, wonderful as the “Counsellor," for he is ever successful in the cause he pleads on behalf of his clients. “The mighty God !'' Oh, I wish people who read the Bible would understand it as it is written, for they make mighty blunders sometimes. If Christ be not God as well as man, there is no salvation for poor sinners. Suppose Christ were only a perfect man: it would be only himself who would be justified by his life of righteousness on earth ; God would certainly be glorified in that; but man-fallen, sinful man-would still be utterly lost and undone.
Zechariah prophesies, “Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts." While Christ is the Son of the living God, he is really and truly God, co-eternal, co-equal with the Father.
John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him.” Go to Hebrews, and we find God himself acknowledging Christ to be God. “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Look at him in his miracles. None but God could raise the dead to life, make the blind to see, or heal the leper. God must become man to become the Rock upon which the church should be built. Blood must be spilt, for without sheding of blood there is no remission.” God could not suffer, bleed, or die. He in his human nature fulfilled the law ; in his human nature he suffered the penalty of the law, instead of his church. Did he die for all the world ? The Scriptures do not say so, and to them we make our appeal. “He shall save his people from their sins.” “He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.” * Where would be the satisfaction if one for whom Christ died were lost? By obeying the law which they had broken, he became the Lord their Righteousness. The Psalmist could sing, “ Blessed is the man to whom righteousness is imputed without works." If you have any righteousness of your own, Christ's righteousness will not go along with it. You must be driven up into a corner (and that is the work of the Holy Spirit). Standing beneath Sinai, the poor sinner hearkens to its thundering voices as it proclaims, " This mountain is no hiding-place.” He is glad to run away from thence, and find shelter beneath the Rock of Ages.
Do you think there is something good in you, that will pass muster when you stand before the judgment-bar of God ? Oh! my friends, remember that the law of God takes cognizance of the thoughts and intents of the hearts. “He that offends in one point is guilty of all.” One sin is sufficient to banish you for ever from the presence of our God.
II. My church. We have the idea here of personal property. How did it become his ?
1. By the Father's gift. “ Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” Why did the Father give them to Christ? To redeem them, to make them a peculiar people, zealous of good works. He will be able to say, when the number of his elect are made up, “Here am I, Father, and the children which thou hast given me.” Suppose only one were missing : what a blank! But there will not be. He will be able to say,
“ Count them with precision o'er,” &c.
2. They are His by his own choice,—“ Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." Love is the foundation of all, blood secures it all, the Holy Spirit reveals it all, and glory shall crown it all. He has chosen them to form his bride, -“Thy Maker is thy husband,”—and engraven their names upon the palms of his hands.
3. They are his by purchase. And do you think Christ will not have all whom he has purchased ? Do you think that he will fail to complete his work. He paid too great a price ever willingly to lose one of them; and blessed be God! his power is co-equal with his will. They are his precious ones,-his jewels. He purchased them from the hands of justice, and redeemed them from the curse of the
law. What a mercy to know our interest in this,—“Kept by the power of God unto salvation."
4. They are his by power. Here we have the work of the Holy Spirit: “ They shall be willing in the day of my power.” It is his work to quicken them from death to life, to bring them out of darkness into light, and from bondage into liberty. He brings them to see that they are altogether undone ; that by the works of the law no poor sinner can be justified. But, bless His holy name ! He does not leave them there, but leads them to Christ, the only way of acceptance with the Father. Christ hath said, “I am the Way: no man cometh unto the Father but by me." And then
5. They become his by surrender. Led by the Holy Spirit to Christ, they are well pleased to rest upon the salvation which he has wrought out, to acknowledge him as their Lord, and to rejoice in him as the Rock of their salvation.
There is nothing to discourage, but everything to encourage the seeker after Christ in this. He never said to any of the seed of Jacob, “Seek ye my face in vain." His promises are without number and full of comfort. “Ho, every one that thirsteth.” “ Come, ye that labour and are heavy laden.” “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
I am speaking in the hope that some here see themselves utterly lost and undone, and I would point such to Christ.
Millions, now in glory, built all their hopes of salvation upon this Rock. The church was placed upon this Rock in the purposes of grace from everlasting, and each living member in that church is brought in time experimentally to build thereon.
III. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This Rock is too high for Satan ever to scale. He may let fly his arrows at them, and wound and harass them, but he shall never be able to pull off one of Christ's blood-bought ones. We may sometimes doubt, if we are on the Rock; we may lose enjoyment of the feeling of security, but it is not our holding Christ that makes us safe, it is he holding us. “My sheep shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.”
These are sweet and precious thoughts when they are brought home with power to our souls. But it is often the case with God's people, that they have to say,
“'Tis a point I long to know,” &c. Sometimes they may go through the wilderness leaning on the arm of their Beloved; sometimes they enjoy the witness of the Spirit. But you must have your nights also,-nights of persecution, trials, tribulation,—but the longest night will have a morrow.
Now, my hearers, what is your foundation ? Are you building upon the Rock of Ages, trusting in the merits of our Divine Redeemer, laying hold upon his righteousness only? If you are, then when the storms of Divine vengeance shall burst upon a guilty world, you will be unharmed and safe for ever. Amen.
Contributed by T. G. C. A.
" CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED," is folly to the Greek, a stumbling-block to the Jew; but to those that believe, both the wisdom and power of God to salvation. The day-star amidst the darkness of man's expulsion from Eden, the Sun of Righteousness of the gospel day, and the everlasting light, the God and the glory of his people; the Ancient of days amongst the patriarchs, the great Teacher amongst the prophets, the true and everlasting Melchisedec amongst the priests, the Prince of peace amongst the nobles, the King of Righteousness amongst the rulers of the earth; the psalm of David, the anthem of Isaiah, and the hynin of the Virgin ; the fulness of the types, the substance of the shadows, and the solution of all the enigmas and dark sayings in the word ; the theme of the Scriptures, the doctrine of the apostles, and the chief matter of the gospel ministry; the hope of the sinner, the trust of the saint, the glory of the Christian, the wonder of angels, the song of the redeemed, and the everlasting joy of heaven.--W. HUNT, Birmingham.