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the object of her desire. 1 Again-when we have given place to temptation ;? when “our mountain stands strong ;
when our love for our Saviour waxes cold,” and our earnestness in seeking him is fainting ;4 we must not be surprised, if we are left for a time to the trial of a deserted state.
But we sometimes speak of the hidings of God's countenance, as if it were a sovereign act, calling for implicit submission ; when the cause should at least be sought for, and will generally be found, in some unlawful indulgence, or act of unwatchfulness, or selfdependence. " Are the consolations of God small with thee? Is there any secret thing with thee ?"5 It was while David “ kept silence” from the language of contrition, that he felt the pressure of the heavy hand of his frowning God : 6 and perhaps the darkness which has sometimes clouded our paths, may be the voice of God speaking loudly to us—"Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know therefore and see, that it is an evil thing and bitter that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God."?
But how blessed is the consideration, that there is good ground in the word of promise, for the prayer“ Forsake me not utterly.” David knew and wrote of the Lord's everlasting faithfulness to his people ; and, while he dreaded even a temporary separation from his God more than any worldly affliction, he could plead that gracious declaration —“ Nevertheless, my loving kindness I will not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” 8 And whilst we would not make the promises of grace an encouragement to carelessness, it is indispensable to our spiritual establishment, that we receive them iu their full, free, and sovereign declaration. How many fainting souls have been refreshed by the assurance
i Canticles iv. 16, with v. 1–6. 2 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. 3 Psalm xxx. 6, 7.
4 Cant. iii. 1-4. 5 Job xv. 11. 6 Psalm xxxii. 3, 4. 7 Jer, ii. 19. 8 Psalm lxxxix. 33.
- For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee—with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.”
My sheep shall never perish ; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.”i So that, while the humble believer dreads separation from his Lord, and finds his only comfort in a lowly, self-abased, and dependent frame, he learns to “ make his boast in the Lord,” and to be “confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in him, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” ?
And even while destitute of sensible consolation, his language is
I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob; and I will look for him.” 3
But is any afraid, that he will, after all that he has engaged, “ forsake him utterly?” Let me ask you, What evidence do you find of such desertion on your soul ? Do you find your heart willing to forsake him ? Are there no mournings and thirstings after the return of the Lord ? He has indeed warned you that, “ if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”: 4 But can you forsake him ? · Let him do as seemeth him good (is the language of your heart); I will wait for him, follow after him, cleave to his word, cling to
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” 5 Though my comfort is clouded, my hope remains unchanging, unchangeable-such as I would not resign for the glory of an earthly crown.' How plain is the seal of heavenly influence in these earnest
1 Isaiah liv. 7, 8. John x. 28. 2 Psalm xxxiv. 2. Phil. i. 6. 3 Isaiah viii. 17. 4 2 Chron. xv. 2. 5 Job xiii. 15.
breathings after the Saviour !--this abiding confidence in his love! Can the Lord “ forsake the work of his own hands?” 1 Sooner should heaven and earth pass, than the faithful engagements of the gospel be thus broken. ?
| Psalm cxxxviii. 8. Augustine's paraphrase of this verse is beautifully descriptive of the believer's conflict in a state of temporary desertion. "O Lord, if- lest I should be proud, and should say in my prosperity, I shall never be removed-it pleased thee to tempt me, yet forsake me not overlong;” that is, if thou hast thus forsaken me, that I may know how weak I am without thy help, yet forsake me not utterly,” lest I perish. I know that of thy good will thou hast given me strength : and if thou turnest away thy face from me, I shall forth with be troubled. “O forsake me not, that I perish not."
9. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?
by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
SURELY it must be considered as a most affecting proof of the natural alienation of the heart from God, that the youth of man—the bloom and freshness of his mind-his “first love”-should naturally be devoted to the service of sin. Seldom indeed is the cry
My Father! thou art the guide of my youth” luttered from the heart, until the misery of wandering without a guide has been painfully felt. And even when the youthful heart begins to feel the touch of Divine grace, and the desire to return homewards is first excited; the habit of wandering from God, and the longindulged and cherished pollutions of sin, seem to form an almost invincible barrier to progress. The inquiry then must be one of the deepest concern—" Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way ! ” And the answer is ready at hand. Let him “ take heed thereto according to the word” of God. It was thus that Joseph in Egypt, 3 and Daniel with his young companions in Babylon,* were enabled to "cleanse their way" in the midst of the detiling atmosphere around them. It was probably the recollection of this purifying efficacy of the word, that induced the venerable Beza in his will to mention, among his chief matters of thankfulness to God, the mercy of having been called to the knowledge of the truth at the age of sixteen
1 Gen. viii. 21.
2 Jer. iii. 4.
3 Ger. xxxix. 9. 4 Daniel i. 8-20; iii. 12-18.
years, by which means, during a course of upwards of seventy years' walk with God, he “escaped the pollutions of the world through lust." But let us not forget, that the "
way can be cleansed” by no other process than by the cleansing of the heart ; for how can a corrupt fountain ~ send forth ” other than “ bitter waters?” i What more suitable language therefore can be found for us, than the supplications of the Royal Penitent?“ Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” 2
The word of God is the ordinary means of this “ cleansing the" sinner's heart and “ way." ye are clean”-said the Saviour to his disciples -through the word which I have spoken unto you. Thus also he interceded for them to his Father“Sanctify them through thy truth : thy word is truth." 4 The hope of the gospel has the same end in view
Every man that hath this hope in” Christ“ “purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” 5 For this purpose also are the promises set before us, that “having these promises," we might “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 6 But oh !-how does the recollection force itself upon us,-can we lose sight of the recollection, that cur way wants daily cleansing !--so defiled are our actions, our thoughts, our motives—nay more-our prayers and services. Let us then “take heed according
1 James iii. 11, 12. 2 Psalm li. 7, 10.
3 John xv. 3. 4 Ibid. xvii. 17. For a striking illustration of this subject, the reader may refer to the account of Augustine's conversion as recorded by himself. Confessions, Books viii. ix. The substance of it may be found in Milner's Church History, Vol. ii. 353—356 ; and a most instructive use is made of it, as throwing light upon the doctrine of conversion, by Dr. Owen, in his valuable work on the Spirit. Book iii. chap. vi. 5 1 John iii. 3.
6 2 Cor. vii. 1.