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Him, and all fair in His comeliness put upon us. In so consenting, we are weaned not merely from our own righteousness, but from such a sense of our sinfulness as would refuse the abundance of His grace. In the unweaned pride of our hearts, our eyes are too lofty to look on the vileness of our sins. When this pride is converted into shame, we feel the force of the words,
Though thou wash thee with nitre and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before Me;" and nothing seems to us so great as our sin, which is so deep, so dark, so vast, so manifold. But in hoping in the Lord, we are weaned from such a sense of sin as would frustrate the grace of God; we believe and know that “where sin hath abounded, grace hath much more abounded;" and sometimes, blessed be God, our souls are so thoroughly like a weaned child, that we can praise the Lord in the high assurance : “Thou hast cast all my sins into the depths of the sea; my sins are red as crimson, but Thou hast purged me with hyssop, and I am clean; Thou hast washed me, and I am whiter than snow."
3. The Lord Himself is a well of living joy in every weaned heart. His moving complaint against us is “ They have forsaken Me, the Fountain of living waters, and have hewn out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water." Our natural desire is to have something of our own for ourselves, apart from the Lord. In Paradise the Lord reserved one tree for Himself, by which He claimed the ownership of the whole garden; and when sin and Satan entered into the heart of our parents, the enjoyment of the garden, with its ample fulness, seemed as nothing, so long as God, by this one reserved tree, claimed the Lordship of all. So, we are ever seeking something that is absolutely our own; every good seems nothing to us except we can have it in a cistern of our own, of which none can claim possession but ourselves. So we hew out many cisterns for our own use and pleasure, or for our supply of life against the day of evil. The cistern is ours, cut by our own hands with much labour, and when once filled, the water will be all our own. But when we have hewn it, we find that it is broken and can hold no water, and we leave it as worthless. Jesus Christ the Fountain of living waters is near us all the while, crying aloud, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink.” But either the water He will give is not that for which we are thirsty; or else it seems to us as nothing, because it is not in a cistern of our own, but is a fountain open to all as well as to us. Therefore we refuse, and hew out some cistern better than the first, and more fitted to satisfy
us; but ere it is finished, we find that it also is broken and can hold no water. And so with cistern after cistern, in fruitless labour and withered hopes.
From all these cisterns, we are weaned by grace; not from one, not from many, but from all. What joy, what liberty, what life is in the soul, when the eyes of man are opened, and he sees that he needs no cistern for himself; when he turns his back on them all, whatever they have cost him, and however they have been cherished; when he knows that the Lord, the Fountain of living waters is enough, and open, and free. “The fountain is mine" is now his one great joy; the Lord the portion of His people. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; blessed are they that thirst for they shall be filled ; let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.-My soul is even as a weaned child: let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.” From this moment onward, through all this life, and for the great eternity, the soul hopes in the Lord: in Christ, made of God unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. It is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord; and great is your liberty when you learn that there is a glorying that is good, in which it is impossible to exceed, and in which you are invited to indulge with your whole heart and soul. “Let him glory in the Lord; rejoice in the Lord alway."
But let us now consider
III. The daily weaning of the soul through life.
The soul has to be weaned from all that must be forsaken, from that which may be either granted or denied, and from its own wisdom and way in the kingdom of heaven on earth.
1. The soul has to be weaned from its sins which must be for ever forsaken. The flesh, with its affections and lusts, must be crucified; through the Spirit, we must mortify the deeds of the body that we may live; and in the race set before us we must lay aside every weight, however prized, and the sin that doth easily beset us, looking unto Jesus. Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” The offending eye must be resolutely plucked out; the offending hand and foot sternly cut off. Yet, blessed be God, the heir of the kingdom is not merely a mortified man: he might be the maimed stump of a man, with hand and foot cut off, and yet no
little child entering the kingdom of heaven. But by grace he is a new creature in Christ Jesus. The weaned soul is not merely bereft of its old self, but has willingly let it go, that it may rejoice in the Lord. Still it is not simply a separation from the old, and a new birth once for all, which, indeed it is; but followed by & daily renewing of the soul, and a daily casting off of that which is offensive to God. After long years of divine pardoning, teaching, leading, chastening, restoring, it is most humbling to know, and bitterly to feel, how the old man not only remains, but is strong within us; and how constant our need of weaning, not merely from things seen and temporal, but from the sins from which we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Yet, when we are constrained to cry, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death,” we are enabled also to answer, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." The soul becomes, again, even as a weaned child, and hopes anew in the Lord, even from henceforth and for ever. Along with this weaning from sins to be forsaken, there is
2. The daily weaning of the soul from what may be either granted or refused, from things lawful in themselves or needful. One great end why the child of God is not removed from the world on the day of his conversion-like the thief on the cross, entering the kingdom on earth, and the kingdom above, on the same day,-must certainly be for the weaning of the soul from the things of earth, while we are on the earth ; teaching us to look, not at things seen and temporal, but at things unseen and eternal. Heaven is the home of weaned souls; but this earth is the place, and this life is the time of our weaning. In the outer darkness there is no weaning, for there “he that is unrighteous is unrighteous still, and he that is filthy is filthy still ;” and in the better country, where the Lamb is the light thereof, there is nothing either around or within the redeemed from which they need to be weaned; for into that light there entereth nothing that defileth, but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
In the varied relations of life, the children of God like other men, are chastened from time to time, that they may learn to say“Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is none on earth whom I desire besides Thee." Not only do father and mother forsake, that we may trust to the Lord taking us up; but brother or sister is removed, husband or wife, son or daughter, to wean us from all that binds us to earth, and teach us to say:
“ What have I here that I should stay and groan ?
And for their old companion plead." In the sickness of those dear to us, we are weaned from their life with us, which may be refused to our earnest prayers; or we are weaned from our hold on their life, that, after we have let them go from our fond grasp, they may be given back to us with a new song of praise. When the nearest and dearest are at the gates of death, oft has the broken heart that clings to them become like a weaned child ; hope in the Lord alone has sprung up in the depths of the soul, and a new song has been given to Him "who raiseth the dead, and calleth the things that are not as though they were.”
In like manner, the soul has to be weaned by grace from the lawful concerns and cares of life. The command in the law is, “six days shalt thou labour,” and in the Gospel it is ordained that men, “work with quietness, and eat their own bread, and that if any man will not work, neither should he eat." If, therefore, any of you have no work or employment, or means to support yourself, or, it may be, your family, you are not only warranted, but bound, to seek for it diligently. But if the Lord is pleased to try you, He may leave you without help until He has made your soul like a weaned child, even in that which you urgently need. “Delight thyself in the Lord, and He will give thee the desires of thy heart;” but delight thyself first in the Lord, before your own desires. “Seek not what ye shall eat, nor what ye shall drink, nor wherewithall shall ye be clothed, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Hundreds and tens of hundreds of the Lord's redeemed have by providential straits been severed from what they seemed most to need, have been chastened like a weaned child, have hoped in the Lord in their helplessness, and have been compassed about with songs of deliverane. The Lord may soon enable you to add your testimony that He is “a very present help in trouble.” The widow of Sarepta, with her handful of meal, and few remaining drops of oil, which she is about to dress for her son and herself, and then to die, is asked to prepare them for the prophet first; and having given them up to the Lord, the barrel of meal wastes not, nor does the cruse of oil fail, till the famine has ceased. Self-surrender in outward things has never risen higher than in the noble song, “ Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; 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 stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” But this weaning from all else and rejoicing in the Lord is accompanied with the highest assurance of divine help: “In the Lord is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.”
As we must be weaned from our own cherished surroundings in this life ; from our friends, who are only pilgrims here, and and from the bread that perisheth ; so also must we be weaned from life itself, that we may “set our affections not on things on earth but on things in heaven." When we are brought face to face with death, as in dangerous sickness, and see that not only all that we call ours may be removed, but that our life must be given up, we are called by grace to a weaning of the soul of a very peculiar kind. To depart and be with Christ is far better, and, for the joy set before us, we may well not count our own life dear unto us; yet to let life go-to put off the tabernacle which, from the hour of our birth, has been so great a part of ourselves—is the loosing of the last tie that binds us to earth, and a great surrender of ourselves into the hands of God. In no man, indeed, except in our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, does the severance of the soul from the body depend on his own will; willing or not willing, the separation comes to us in its appointed time. But it is very blessed, regarding this last link to earth, to be enabled by grace to say, “My soul is even as a weaned child—my hope is in the Lord from henceforth and for ever."
3. But, further, the soul must be weaned from its own wisdom and way in the kingdom of heaven on earth. Because the end is not our own, we are apt to conclude that what we do, or say, or desire for the furtherance or the defence of God's heavenly kingdom, must be according to His will. The object aimed at may be the will of the Lord, and it may be for Christ's sake and not for our own that we seek it; yet we may greatly need to be weaned from self regarding it from our own temper, and will, and time, and way, and to learn that “the wrath of man worketh not to the righteousness of God.” The good, therefore, on which our heart is set, may be given to another to work out, or to us only after our soul has been quieted as a weaned child.
The man after God's own heart, from ardent love to his heavenly Father, set his mind on building a house for His dwel.