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THE BENEFITS OF A MERCY SEAT

by EDMUND ROBINS

Sermon preached at Conway Street Chapel, London, on December 4th, 1815

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Conway Street was the chapel where services were commenced in 1814 after the death of William Huntington, the congregation being comprised largely of his old hearers. The congregation later built the chapel in Gower Street. Edmund Robins became pastor in 1815 but died about three years later.

J. C. Philpot made a striking comment on this sermon: "For clearness of doctrinal statement, for depth and fullness of experience, for simplicity and strength of language (though evidently the production of an uneducated man), and for sweet savour pervading the whole, we scarcely know its equal."



"And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat." (Exodus 25:22)

In the chapter preceding this out of which my text is taken, we have an account of Moses being called up into the mount to have converse with the Lord, and he was there forty days and forty nights and during the time he was there he received orders from God about the tabernacle that was to be erected in the wilderness. And in the beginning of this chapter it is said, "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering; of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering." And the things they were to offer, and which Moses was to accept of them, were "gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate." With these materials there was to be a sanctuary erected for the worship of the Lord; and the first thing that Moses had orders about was the ark.

This ark was made in the form of a chest; it was about four feet and a half long, and about two feet nine inches in breath and in height; it was made of shittim wood, a very valuable wood, which grew in the desert of Arabia, and was smooth, tough, beautiful, very hard and durable; it was covered with gold within and without, and upon the top of its edge there was a crown of gold. Upon the four corners of it there were to be four rings of gold two on one side and two on the other. And there were to be two staves of shittim wood, covered over with gold, to be put through these rings, and they were to be fixed into the rings; and the tribe of Levi, Aaron and his sons, were to bear the ark upon their shoulders and carry it from place to place. By these two staves, in the next place, there was a lid or cover to the ark, which was to be called the mercy seat; it was made of solid gold. And out of this lid or cover, called the mercy seat, there were to be two cherubims made or hammered out, and they were to face each other, and rather to look downward, as if they were praying into the ark; so that the mercy seat was laid upon the ark.

The ark contained the two tables of the law; and there was a repository by the side of it, I believe, where the golden pot of manna was, and Aaron's rod that budded, and also a copy of the five books of Moses, according to what Paul says to the Hebrews says to the Hebrews. (9:3-6) Now, this ark being made, and the lid of it called the mercy seat, and the cherubims on the mercy seat facing each other, God promises to meet with them, and to bless them, and to commune with them "from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims," and this accounts for the psalmist's prayer: "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leddest Joseph like a flock; Thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth." The ark was a very sacred vessel, and it was death for any to look into it but the priest; hence it was carried under a cover.

This ark was a grand type of Christ, as our Mediator, and the mercy seat too. The wood it was made of being valuable may set forth the value of Christ to poor sinners, the beauty of it may set forth the glory of Christ in His Person and work, so that He is the fairest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely; its being tough and hard may set Him forth as the Son of Man made strong for God's own self; and its being durable may set forth the durableness of His merits and work. "Riches and honour are with Me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and My revenue than choice silver." (Prov. 8:18,19) Its being overlaid within and without with gold may set forth the precious grace that the Holy Spirit adorned Him with as man within and the perfection of His life without, so that He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." The four rings that were at the four corners set forth the harmony of the divine perfections in Him as Mediator; as David says, "Mercy and truth are met together" in Him; "righteousness and peace have kissed each other." (Ps. 85:10) The staves that went through the rings to bear the ark, that were to be put upon the priests' shoulders, may set forth gospel ministers carrying Christ to poor sinners; or, as Paul says, "bearing Him among the Gentiles," for the tidings gospel ministers carry or bear are Christ crucified; as Paul says, "We preach Christ crucified;" and, says he, "I am determined to know nothing else among men." And, writing to the Hebrews, he says, "Remember them that have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation; Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever."

And that none were to carry the ark but the tribe of Levi is very plain from many passages of Holy Writ, one proof of which I will bring. Just before the death of Eli, there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel, and Israel took the ark of God into the field of battle with them, as it is recorded in 1 Sam. 4; and Israel was smitten, and the ark of God was taken. All the time the Philistines were in possession of the ark, they had nothing but troubles or plagues; and they did in a curious way send it back to Israel again, as you see in 1 Sam. 6. When it came to Beth-shemesh, fifty thousand and seventy persons looked into it, contrary to God's order, and the Lord smote them. The men of Beth-shemesh immediately sent it away to Kirjath-jearim, and it was fixed in the house of Abinadab, and there it remained a long time, until the days of David. At last David consulted with his captains and leaders, and determined to fetch up the ark from Kirjath-jearim, and bring it to his own city, and fix it in a tent that he had provided for it.

Now observe, instead of its being carried upon the shoulders of the priests by the staves that were in the rings of the ark, David has a new cart made to put it upon, a yoke of oxen to draw it, and two men to drive it. As it was going along, the oxen stumbled; the ark upon the cart shook. Uzzah, one of the drivers, puts forth his hand to stay it; God strikes him dead. This breach filled David with slavish fear, and he was afraid to bring the ark home; hence he leaves it at the house of Obed-edom. God blesses the house of Obed-edom for the sake of the ark, it remains there three months. God's blessing the house of Obed-edom appears to stir up jealousy in David; and he being convinced of his error in not putting it upon the shoulders of the priests, consults with his great men, and tells them that none ought to bear the ark of the Lord but the Lord's own priests. And, says David, "The Lord made a breach upon us at the first, because we sought Him not after the due order;" and then in harmony they all unite, and with great joy and solemnity the ark is brought into the city of David, and pitched in the tent appointed for it. Some years after this, it was by Solomon fixed in the temple, in the innermost part thereof; and there it was until the temple was destroyed by the Chaldeans. The ark was wanting in the second temple; and as it was a symbol of the divine presence, the loss of it presaged the approaching abolition of the whole of the ceremonies. It was called the ark of the covenant and the ark of the testimony, because the law of God was in it, or His testimony, or that covenant He made with Israel. It was called the ark of His strength, where He rested. So that, according to the above account, it was unlawful for any to bear this ark but the Levites, the Lord's ministers; and so it is the same to this day, as it regards the antitype, Christ. And the Levites were to be chosen, called, washed and clothed, sanctified, consecrated and anointed before ever they were ceremonially fit for such an office.

Now the word Levi signifies "joined;" and all that are fit to preach Christ to poor sinners are joined to the Lord. First, in God's purpose; and secondly, though by the fall they have a corrupted will, but being one with Christ in covenant love they shall be made willing to leave the world and its wretched practices behind, and the spirit of it, and human wisdom, and self-righteousness, and all supposed strength, and, in a word, all things that stand in opposition to Christ, and be truly willing to come as poor, needy, empty-handed sinners to Christ for all. And when this is the case, there is manifestly a joining; and when it pleases God to reveal His Son in the heart the hope of glory, and the blood and righteousness of Christ are felt in the conscience, and the love of God in some measure believed in, so that the soul is filled with joy and peace in believing, this makes it clearly known to the sinner that he is joined to the Lord, and one with Christ, the covenant Head. Such a man is a Levite, joined; such a one is chosen in God's purpose in Christ, manifestly chosen out of the world in time, called by a divine power out of darkness into light, washed in the blood of Christ from all his filthiness, and cleansed from all his idols by divine love; clothed without by the righteousness of Christ, and within by the sweet adorning of the graces of God's Spirit; sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and set apart from this vain world, and consecrated to God's service, and anointed with the oil of joy. Such a soul, if God gives him a door of utterance to speak of what he has felt, tasted and handled of the good word of life, is a proper person to bear or to carry our spiritual ark, Christ.

Further, the ark was a type of Christ, inasmuch as it contained the law, or the two tables of stone upon which the law was written. So the law of God is in the heart of Christ, and He undertook to fulfill it as man's Surety, and in time He did obey it; and it never can condemn a soul that trusts his all in Christ. And as the ceremonial law was deposited in the side of the ark, it might be to show that the blood and water that came out of the side of Christ would fulfill all that; His blood to answer all that was typified by the blood under the law, and the water to answer to all that was typified by the rinsings by water under that dispensation; so that, as Paul says, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." (Rom. 10:4) And neither devil, sin, death, law nor hell shall ever hurt that soul that has a grain of true faith in Christ. The devil cannot, for Christ has destroyed the power of him for all His redeemed. Sin cannot, for it was all atoned for by Him. The law cannot, for it has in Christ all its demands. Death cannot, or hell, for Christ has triumphed over all these upon the cross, and as a proof of His victory has arisen from the grave, ascended into heaven, taken His seat at the right hand of God, and ever liveth to make intercession for His own, and declares because He lives, they shall live also. Moreover, the ark is said to have a crown of gold upon it, and it may set forth how the saints of God crown Him Lord of all by a living faith, and how He will be crowned by them in the world to come, when they will be unitedly ascribing "salvation to God and the Lamb for ever." (Rev. 7:10) Once more, the blessing of God attended all that had a reverence for the ark. And so all that adhere to Christ, and embrace the darling Son of God, shall never be ashamed or confounded world without end.

I will speak a word or two now of the mercy seat, or the lid or cover of the ark. It was just as long as the ark, four feet and a half, and it was the same in breadth, two feet nine inches, and it was all of gold. This might set forth to us that mercy is extended as far as the merits of Christ; and as the mercy seat was laid upon the ark, it may show us that if the ark was wanting, there could be no mercy for us; or, in other words, justice will not admit of mercy being shown to us unless it gets satisfaction from the ark, Christ. Further, out of this solid lid of gold, or mercy seat, there were two cherubims hammered or beaten out, one at each end, and they faced one another, and bent downwards, as if they were looking into the ark, and with their wings they covered the mercy seat; and it might set forth to us the harmony of good angels and God's ministers in the redemption by Christ. Angels are cherubims and servants to the church; (Ps. 18:10; Heb. 1:14) and Peter says they desire to look into these things. (1 Pet. 1:12) Hence they sang at the birth of Christ, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." And gospel ministers are set forth in Ezekiel 10 as cherubims; and we are sure that they wish to look more into the work of redemption. Thus the ark and the mercy seat were God's resting-place, and so is Christ. Here it was, according to my text, that God met with the children of Israel, and did commune with them from above the mercy seat, from between the cherubims; here He communed with them, and they with Him.

I will now come to my text; the words are, "And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat." In offering you a few thoughts from the words, I will:

I. Point out the place where God and sinners meet.

II. Show you the ground of communion.

III. Treat of communion itself. And may the good Lord direct me to speak and you to hear to our mutual edification and comfort.

I. I am to point out the place where God and sinners meet. And here I will take upon me to say, upon the evidence of God's word, that the only place where God and sinners can meet is in Christ Jesus. In order to prove this, I will observe that when Adam came out of the hand of God, he was pure, holy and innocent; or, as truth expresses it, he was created "in the image of God," made upright. Whilst he remained in that state of primitive integrity, he by no means needed a Saviour, because he was free from sin; but as soon as the old serpent, called the devil and Satan, was cast out of heaven for his vileness, and all that adhered unto him, he used all the means possible to seduce our first parents; for Adam and Eve were in a mutable state, and mutable creatures, though created in God's image, and upon a level with God's holy law, for what the law demanded they were in possession of. But then it is to be observed that what Adam had, he had according to the tenor of the covenant of works, for that in substance was made with Adam. He was free to stand or free to fall. He did fall; and being the natural head and representative of all mankind, and they all being in his loins and to descend from him by ordinary generation, when he fell they all fell into a state of apostasy from God, into sin, guilt and misery; as Paul says, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23) "By one man" (meaning Adam) "sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:12) And again, "By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation." (Rom. 5:17,18)

Now by the fall, sin is fixed in every faculty of the soul. The memory retains evil; the mind is employed in meditating on vanity; the will is in downright opposition to God's; the judgment or understanding is so defiled and blind that it calls evil good and good evil, puts darkness for light and light for darkness, takes bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter; and as for the conscience, that is so defiled by sin that it acts as Paul did, when he verily thought that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth; which he also did. Now, if his conscience had not been impure, he never would have thought that he was doing God service to murder the saints. As for the affections, it is plain that these are set upon other objects short of God; and as the whole soul is corrupted by the fall, the body and the soul being in union together, the members of the body are instruments of unrighteousness, as Paul says in Romans 6. All the misery that is felt in time and to all eternity is the effect of the fall; so that the devil in causing Adam to fall, threw the whole human race, at one stroke, into such a state of sin that there is a vast distance between God and His creatures. And, for aught fallen man can do, he must remain in this state, at a distance from God, for evermore; for in the fall he lost all good, and obtained all evil in the room of good; and the determination of man, in this fallen state, is to have nothing to do with God, but to go on independent of Him; so that he is not only at a distance from God by sin, but he loves the distance as well.

If it be asked, Why did God suffer His creatures to come into such a state of sin and misery? With humility of heart I do believe, without being over-curious on the point, it was that He might display all the perfections of His nature in the eternal salvation of poor sinners, and by so doing get to Himself everlasting honor and glory in the displays of His grace toward such poor, sinful, helpless wretches; and thus lay them under such noble constaints to love, gratitude and thankfulness that they should bless Him in a measure in this world, and for ever in the world to come, singing this noble song, Salvation to God and the Lamb for ever and ever."

Now man being in such a sinful, miserable, helpless state, as briefly described above, stands in great need of a mediator, and never can, according to my text, have any communion with God, never can come near Him without a mediator. If it be asked why they can have no communion with God without a mediator? I answer, By man's fall there are three things that stand in the way. In the first place, the Word of God says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Now, in Adam all have sinned, and of course all must die, according to this truth, unless there is a surety provided for them; and the law of God allows of a surety, though it does not provide one. Now before a sinner can come near to God, truth must be cleared, for God is a God of truth and He cannot lie; and as we are all sinners, we must die, or a surety die for us. As Milton says,


"Die man or justice must; unless for him
Some other, able and as willing, pay

And as truth must be cleared, so, in the second place, God's holy, just and righteous law must be perfectly obeyed before a man that is a sinner can be brought near to God; for man being a transgressor of God's law, it never will admit of a man's having any communion with God until it is obeyed; and as it requires perfection, it must of course have a righteousness adequate to its demands; so that here is the truth of God and a broken law that stand in the way.

And in the third place, man is guilty, being a sinner, and therefore the justice of God must be satisfied for the guilt of man, or else not one blessing can come to the sinner, for, as Paul says, "Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin." (Heb. 9:22) But neither angels nor men can perform such a work. Angels cannot, for they are not in possession of human nature; men cannot, for their nature is corrupt, and their strength is all lost by the fall. Hence sensible sinners have cried out under a sense of what they are, "Put me in a surety with Thee;" (Job 17:3) and, "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, O Lord, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified." (Ps. 143:2) Hence comes in the everlasting love and good-will of God in that He has, in infinite mercy and boundless compassion, provided a Surety to stand in the gap, and to make up the breach that was opened by sin; and this Surety is the Son of the Father, in truth and love. In His purpose of grace He gave his Son to His elect, and set Him up to be future Man and Mediator, provided a body for Him to assume, and in the fullness of time sent Him into the world to stand in the sinner's law place; and thus He is said to be the Son of man, made strong for God's own self. He was able to bear the whole weight for His people; hence the love of God and the love and condescension of God's Son is exceeding great to poor sinners; so that, as Paul says, He "spared not His own Son," but freely gave Him up to divine justice for all His elect. (Rom. 8:32)

Herein is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, though He was rich, yet for the sake of His people He became poor, that they through His poverty might be made rich. (2 Cor. 8:9) According to the appointment of His Father, and as the fruit of His eternal love, He was sent; and as He had out of love to man undertaken his cause, as a royal volunteer, in His love and condescension He came. In the virgin's womb He took human nature into actual union with His divine that He might, in the same nature that man had sinned in, clear God's truth, give to the law a perfect obedience, and at last shed His precious blood to satisfy all demands; and thus He removed all and everything out of the way that stood between God and sinners. Thus as man He obeyed, suffered, bled and died; and the human nature in which He obeyed, suffered bled and died, being in union with His divine nature, stamped infinite dignity on His work, so that He is a proper Surety and a complete Mediator. Hence Paul says, "There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" Christ, the anointed of God for this work; and Jesus, a Saviour able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him. (Heb. 7:25)

You may see the love and grace of God beam forth, as soon as man fell, in making this object known: "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." It was set forth in Abel's sacrifice; hence Paul says, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and by it he being dead yet speaketh." The whole of the ceremonial law exhibited the dear Redeemer and His work; hence, as Paul says, writing to the Colossians, "Which are a shadow of good things to come; but the" substance or the "body is of Christ." And, writing to the Hebrews, he says the law was "a shadow of good things to come." The prophets were all agreed about this precious Mediator; for "to Him give all the prophets witness;" and by the Spirit they sweetly spoke of Him. And when the Lord Jesus came, He declared that He was the Door, and the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; and that no man could come to the Father but by Him. He is "a glorious throne to His Father's house," or His church, and a precious throne of grace He is; and Paul's advice to us is that we be constantly coming to it that our needs be supplied.

In the dear Redeemer all the perfections of God's nature shine and harmonize. Here it is that mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss or embrace each other; so that poor sinners, that are lost and ruined by the fall and in themselves, are perfectly saved by this Mediator; not at the expense of divine justice, but consistent with it. And this is such a glorious way of salvation that it is safe to man and honorable to God; so that the Father says, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." See how sweetly the apostles spake of this way. Peter says there is no salvation in any other; and Paul agrees with him and says, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 3:11)

This is the glorious channel of all conveyance from God to man; this is what the mercy seat and the ark typified. And as God communed with Israel from above the mercy seat, and as that pointed out the Lord Jesus Christ, so to this day the God of all grace communicates through Christ His blessings to sinners, and under the influences of His Spirit, they communicate to Him; so that Christ is the grand meeting-place where God and sinners meet so as to have communion with each other. Hence Paul beautifully observes, "Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:19-22)

Now, if there is no possibility of coming near to God in this world, or in that which is to come, but through the perfect work of Jesus Christ, and He is the only way of salvation, what a mercy it is if the good Lord has taught us to see and to feel our need of Him; if He has enlightened us to see our life of sin, led us to see our corrupt nature, and our cursed, condemned state as rebels against God in His law; if He has imparted to us life to make us feel what the light discovers; if He has chastened us that we should not be condemned with the world, hunted us out of all our refuges of lies, made us sick of our own ways, and by His power operated upon our wills so as to make us willing to leave the spirit and the practices of this world, and all our own supposed worth and worthiness behind, and to come as poor, needy, guilty, helpless, unworthy sinners to the feet of Christ, for all that salvation that is in Him, and which we really need! For this precious Redeemer to be made known in the court of conscience so as to enjoy pardon and peace, what a mercy it is! And how does it call for our gratitude to the God of all grace! And what an awful thing it is to be left blinded by the god of this world, dead is sin, shut up in unbelief, given up to hardness of heart, and through pride to reject the Lord Jesus, to disallow of Him, and to make Him a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, so as to be offended in Him and at Him, as all worldlings, Pharisees, and hypocrites are; such as Arians, who deny His proper divinity, and call Him a mere man, and all that deny His efficacious blood, the operations of His Spirit, His righteousness imputed, and, instead of trusting in Him, the sure Foundation, are all of them building upon the sand! As sure as there is a God, dying in that state, all such will be damned for ever. Who is it that has made us to differ from these? The distinguishing grace of God alone; and therefore, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake." (Ps. 115:1)

Having thus shown you the place where God and sinners meet, and proved it to be Christ Jesus, and that it is only through Him that poor sinners can have communion with God, I proceed to my next general head, and that is,

II. To show you the ground of communion with God. And do you observe, first of all, the real foundation of communion is union. Hence I will lay down this proposition: that all the persons that God has willed to save, and has loved with an everlasting love, are united to Christ in the eternal decree of election, and are one with Him; and all such shall have communion with God in time and to all eternity, and none else. Now the will of God is the fountain of all the communion that God's people have with God; in fact, all the blessings they ever will enjoy come from the divine will. Hence He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy;" and Paul says that we are "predestinated according to the good pleasure of His will;" and He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." (Eph. 1:11) The fact is, that God willed, purposed, determined and decreed to bless a number of the fallen race with all spiritual blessings before the world was in actual existence, and by His grace to make them meet for Himself, and to bring them safe to heaven, that they may be found blessing Him to all eternity, and the way is Christ. The blessed agent that makes these poor creatures meet is the Holy Spirit.

Now all that God willed to save and decreed to bring to glory He loves with an everlasting love; this is plain from Jer. 31:3: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." And it is a free love; He does not love or save them for what He saw in them, for He saw nothing in them but sin, as says Psalm 53; neither did He love them for what they would do, for they must be saved before they can do any good at all; but He loved them freely, because it was His will. And it is unchangeable love; it always will be what it ever was, full and free, without the least shadow of a turn; for "God is love," and God is unchangeable, and it is boundless, and also unspeakable. Hence says John, "God so loved the world;" so as not to be expressed, and he is quite lost in it, and therefore says, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" (1 John 3:1) And, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

Now, as God has willed to save poor sinners, and thus loved them, so He has entered into covenant with His co-equal and co-eternal Son and Holy Spirit. The Father has provided for all His elect in His Son; hence we are said to be blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. The Son of God has in covenant agreed to all His Father's proposals, and undertook to do all for them in obeying and suffering, as their Surety. And the Spirit, as a divine Person, undertook to teach men their fallen state as sinners, the need of Christ to save them; to bring them to confession and prayer, to testify of Christ to them, and to make them meet for heaven. Hence Christ is said to be God's Elect, and in covenant engagements to be set up from everlasting to be in time manifestly a Mediator; and all that God decreed to save, and loved, He chose in Christ. They are the Father's gift to Him, and they are His charge, and they are said to be loved with the same love that Christ is, as it relates to His manhood; for the Saviour says, "And hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me." (John 17:23) And as Christ is the covenant Head and Representative of His people, they being all the objects of God's love, chosen in Christ, given to Christ, they are one with Christ, and ever will be what they ever were; that is, secure in Christ, bound up in the bond of everlasting love, so that they are eternally united to Christ; and devil, sin nor death shall ever be able to disunite them. Hence we read of their security in Christ, and of their being "preserved in Christ" until called; and as God loves them in Christ, determined to save them, and as they are one with Christ, eternally united to Him, from this very source does all communion proceed.

And what is it that makes a man happy, even now? I answer: a manifestation of God's love to his soul so as for him to know that he is one with Christ, the covenant Head. Hence says John, "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him;" (1 John 4:16) and if God did not love us in Christ, we should never have one particle of grace in this world, nor any heaven in the next; it all flowing from that love in uniting us to Christ. This is the real ground of all the blessings that God communicates to us, and the ground of our communicating to God our confessions, our petitions and our thank-offerings. Christ Jesus took our nature in the virgin's womb, and in time we are favored with His Spirit; and this Spirit actually joins us to Him in a manifest way, as the fruit of eternal union to Him; as Paul says, "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" with Him. (1 Cor. 6:17) Now our being chosen in Christ, the covenant Head, and loved with an everlasting love, did not prevent our fall in Adam, but rather included it; and though in the eternal decree of electing love we are one with Christ, and in Him are blessed with all spiritual blessings, yet by the fall we are in a most wretched state, slaves to the devil, under the power of sin, enemies to God by wicked works, and rebels against God's law. As Paul says, "The carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Rom. 8:7)

And as we hate God in this fallen state, so we do man. Hence we are said to live in envy and malice, to be hateful, and hating one another; and in this state we know nothing of our oneness with Christ, according to God's eternal decree. But then observe what God says to His Son: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power." (Ps. 110:3) All the objects of God's choice, the persons that are given to Christ, shall be a willing people in time, which plainly implies that before God's power operates upon their soul, they are unwilling; and the language of all their hearts naturally is, "We will not have this man to reign over us;" (Luke 19:14) Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways." (Job 21:14) And the Saviour says, "Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life;" (John 5:40) which evidently sets forth the obstinacy and perverseness of man's will; and whilst a man is in such a state there is no actual joint.

But it pleases God, according to His promise, to display His power in the soul of man, and to make him willing to leave his wretched course of life, which he is led to see is a life of rebellion against God; for where this power operates, there is a discovery made of sin, and such a soul is made willing to leave the spirit of the world as well as its outward practices. And though he may for a time try to make his heart better and, through ignorance, to establish a righteousness of his own, yet it will in the end be made clear to him, by feelings within as well as by judgment without, that his whole soul is totally corrupt; that he is a lump of sin and a mass of iniquity; that all his vows, resolutions and promises are of no use; and when he has properly tried his own strength, his righteousness, his supposed goodness and all that ever he trusted in give way. His wisdom is turned into foolishness, his supposed righteousness made out to him to be the worst sins that ever he committed; his vows, resolutions and promises all broken, until he is afraid to make another; all natural religion, all his acquired religion, proved to him to be worse than nothing, and his sin ever before him, guilt upon his conscience, the wrath of God pursuing him, the fear of death and judgment to come, so that his heart meditates terror. Such a soul, having divine light to discover these things, and life to feel them, and a divine power operating in his soul, comes to the light that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in him by God. This proves the honesty of his heart; and, like the psalmist, he cries, "Search me, and try me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Ps. 139:23,24)

Such a one is jealous over his own heart for fear that he should be deceived, and is continually suspecting himself. He is poor, and feels that he is, as a sinner destitute of all good; and he is needy, so needy that he will never be satisfied until he can by faith eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, for nothing short of this will do for such a soul. And as the power of God operates in his soul, he is brought under some softening operations at times, and does really accept the punishment of his iniquity, falls in with the justice of God, and knows that he is truly deserving of that wrath which he can see is revealed in the law against sinners; at times stands astonished at the long-suffering of God, who has put up with his manifold provocations; and by the power of God in his soul, he falls down before God, confesses his crimes, and, being humbled, he begs like the publican for mercy, puts his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope, and would think it a great mercy to escape from destruction with the skin of his teeth. Such a soul is made willing to leave all things that stand in opposition to the Lord Jesus, and is willing to be saved by Christ alone, and therefore hungers and thirsts for Him. God's promises hold forth to such souls every blessing they need, and His Word gives them every encouragement they need to press on to know the Lord for themselves as their covenant God: "For the needy shall not alway be forgotten, the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever." (Ps. 9:18) "For the oppression of the poor and the sighing of the needy, now I will arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him;" (Ps. 12:5) and God never said unto any of the seeking seed of Jacob, Seek My face in vain.

Now, if a poor sinner is thus far taught and led on, there is manifestly a joint, or such a soul is joined to the Lord manifestly, inasmuch as his will, in the business of salvation, is one with the Lord's, and this work flows from such a soul being one with Christ in eternal love and choice; for were he not in the covenant Head, he never would be made willing in the day of God's power to come to Christ for salvation. But all this will not satisfy a poor sinner; there must be a vital union by a real receiving of Christ by faith into the heart, the hope of eternal glory; for there is no joy nor peace but in believing in the blood and righteousness of Christ Jesus. And when the good Spirit leads such a poor, sensible sinner forth, in the exercise of faith, to receive Christ with all that He is and has, so that the soul sucks and is satisfied with the breasts of consolation, by a living faith he milks out the blessed contents of God's promises, as suited to his case, he then is delighted with the abundance of Zion's glory, and the more he receives by faith, the more does he go forth in love to God for His goodness to him in Christ. He loves Christ for the great things He has done for him; and he loves the Holy Spirit for making these things known to him; so that such a soul is satisfied with the Lord's goodness.

This was the case with David, with Hezekiah, the publican, and the jailer, and with the apostle. A vital union is then felt, faith in such a sinner's heart works by love, God in a very peculiar way is endeared to him, real friendship between God and such a sinner is enjoyed; the name of Christ is like ointment poured forth in such a man's soul, his meditation in the Lord is sweet, God is all in all to him, he feels what it is to be heavenly-minded, and enjoys life and peace. This is a little heaven begun in his soul; this is the union that is spoken of so much in Scripture, by the vine and the branches in it, by the head and its members, by the husband and the wife in union, by the foundation and the superstructure upon it, etc.; and though it may be and often is interrupted by the devil, sin, the world, and men, and things in the world, yet it never can be dissolved, for what God does is done for ever. But the joining that I have spoken of, when a man's will is brought to submit to God's, and this vital union that is brought about in due time by the blessed Spirit's testifying of the Lord Jesus, is all from first to last the fruit of good-will in God, and His electing love to His people in Christ from all eternity; so that the one is the fruit or the effect of the other; or, in plain English, what is done in time is the manifesting of what God has done in His eternal purpose. My security is founded upon what God has done for me in Christ from everlasting and my comfort lies in its being made known to me by the blessed Spirit, which is done in time.

Hence I conclude by asserting that every grain of grace that is given to me in time, such as the fear of the Lord to bring me to reverence His name, and by which I depart from evils and errors; all the light that shines into my heart to discover my lost, ruined, helpless state as a sinner against God in His law; all the life under the influence of which I feel my wretchedness and my want of a dear Redeemer, and hunger and thirst after His atonement and His righteousness all the faith He favors me with, whereby I receive His promises, His blood and righteousness, and the hope I have in His mercy, whereby I am propped up and kept from sinking; all the deliverances He blesses me with in answer to the cries the blessed Spirit enables me to put up to God; all the rest, peace and joy that is found in believing; all the support under all sorts of troubles that I feel; all the manifestations of love and displays of His mercy; all the confessions, prayers and thank-offerings, together with all the love that I have to His blessed name, His people, His Word, ways and worship; the repentance, godly sorrow, self-loathing and self-abhorrence that I feel; all the meekness that is felt, whereby a soul vents out his grief before God; all the humility of soul that is felt, under a sense of what I am before God, and His great goodness to me in Christ, together with the blessed grace of patience, under the exercise of which the soul patiently endures sufferings from men and devils; in one word, all that is enjoyed in time that is good or will be enjoyed to all eternity, is the free gift of God in Christ. It all comes through the Mediator, Christ; and by the Holy Spirit it is all brought into the soul in time, in a measure. It will be all enjoyed fully in the celestial regions of eternal day; and in it all God will be glorified to all eternity. The whole of it springs from our being loved with an eternal love in Christ, and in the covenant of rich, free, sovereign grace, being one with Him; or, to stick to the point, eternally united unto Him.

Having thus pointed out briefly the ground or foundation of communion, and proved it to be union, I shall now

III. Treat of communion itself. "And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat."

Communion with God is a very great and grand subject. And what is all religion without it? An empty, vain show. But what is communion? It is a person communicating to another favors that are needed, and the person that receives these favors to be found communicating back to the giver or donor, according to the benefit received, by grateful acknowledgment, by being thankful, so that it is active in the giver, and passive in the receiver; and for these communications on both sides to spring from real love or union. This is communion, or fellowship; as we read in Phil. 4:15, "Now ye Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only." Paul and these Philippians were united in heart. Hence he says they had fellowship in the gospel; and, out of love to Paul, they communicated to him in a temporal way, and thus they were active; Paul, the receiver, was passive; and, in return for their kindness, he communicated by acknowledging their kindness and thanking them for it.

Now I have shown before that none but the objects of God's love and choice, the purchase of the dear Redeemer's blood, and those that are in time blessed with God's Spirit and grace, will ever have any communion with God; for we are all by nature alienated from the life of God, and at a great distance from Him by sin and wicked works, and it cannot be possible to have communion with God in that state; for, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3) And we are said to be blind and dark, yea, darkness itself; and darkness and light can have no communion. Now God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all, and we are darkness, and how can we in such a state have any communion with Him? And further, we are dead in sin, and therefore can have no intercourse with the living God while we are dead. Moreover, we are unrighteous, and God is essentially righteous; He is holy, but we are unholy; sin reigns in us, and God is perfection. Now we cannot in such a state have communion with God; it is impossible. And no sinner in such a state can ever be beforehand with God, for if God communicates nothing to a man, a man will never communicate anything to God. Manasseh had never done anything but sin and rebel against God until God communicated to him. And what did Matthew, Zacchaeus, the thief upon the cross, Mary Magdalene, the publican, the Jews as recorded in Acts 2, the Apostle Paul before his conversion, or that long black list recorded in 1 Cor. 6, and many more that might be named? What was there communicated by any of them until God began with them first? There was nothing done by them but sin, neither was there anything in them but sin.

And look back, my fellow-sinners, to our own case. Should we ever have sought after God if He had not sought after us? Where is the man that can say that he was beforehand with God? No man can, if he knows himself. And how blind and ignorant must those be that are boasting of free will and human power, and of meriting His favor by their own supposed strength and goodness; for, as the Saviour says, "Can a corrupt tree," as all men naturally are by the fall, "bring forth good fruit?" (Matt. 7:18) Impossible. We may as well expect grapes from thorns and figs from thistles as expect it. But for ever be adored the God of love, He has chosen us in His Son, and loved us in Him; and according to His good will and matchless love, through the Mediator, Christ, He does most sweetly communicate that to us which brings us to communicate back to Him, in such a way that He is delighted with us and we are delighted with Him. But what is that which God communicates to His people or gives them?

First of all, He gives them Himself, according to His good will in His covenant love and engagements, or He makes Himself over to them as their God; and therefore it is said by one in faith, "The Lord is the portion of my soul; therefore will I hope in Him." And the language of God in His Word is, "I will be thy God." And the church in the Psalm says, "This God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide unto death." So that believers are related to Him in covenant love, and have an interest in Him. "Happy is that people whose God is the Lord;" for, as Paul says, there are gods many and lords many, but to the Christian there is but one God; and this God, in distinction from all others, is the God of salvation; and from this very source do all covenant blessings proceed or flow: "My God," says Paul, my covenant God, "shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:19) And He is to all believers what He was to Abraham: "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward;" their shield to defend them from all their foes, their portion now and for evermore. They have a mutual interest in each other, and therefore it is said that they are heirs of God. (Rom. 8:16,17; Gal. 4:7) And this is a most wonderful sentence, for it expresses interest in each other, property in each other, and of course fellowship; so that they are said to converse with each other in a mutual way, or they talk to each other.

Such communion had God and Abraham about Sodom; and when it was over the Lord is said to leave communing with Abraham. And the same blessed converse Moses had with the Lord, and spoke to Him face to face. And when the Lord meets with His people, talks to them, makes it manifest that He has loved them with an everlasting love, visits them with His presence, and reveals the secrets of His heart to them; when they draw near to Him in prayer, and are favored with access to Him through Christ, are blest with freedom and liberty in their approaches to Him, and, as Job says, come to His seat, open their mind, tell Him their mind, and pour out their hearts before Him, they have a little communion with God, as their God in covenant, so that there is a sweet intercourse open between God and His saints. And they are said to dwell in each other; as John says, "He that loveth dwelleth in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:16) And God is the dwelling-place of His people to all generations; and the Trinity of persons is said to dwell in the followers of the Lamb; (John 14:23) and such have communion with God.

Furthermore, they are said to walk together because they are agreed. Christ has made reconciliation by His precious blood; and by the blessed Spirit this reconciliation is manifest in them; and being thus mutually agreed, they walk together. And to set forth the strength of this union and communion, He is said to walk in them, and they are directed to walk in Him. But now observe the blessedness of having such a God as this. He is God over all, and for ever blessed. He is the Creator of all, the Preserver of all, the kind Benefactor of all. It is Him that preserves man and beast. But He is only the God of nature and providence to the non-elect, but the God of grace and truth to the elect; and all hearts are in His hand, and all men and things at His disposal. He has power over devils, sin and death; and there is nothing too hard for Him to do, nothing impossible to be done by Him, seeing He has all power in heaven and earth. There is not one perfection of His nature but what are engaged in the behalf of His people, some of which I will mention.

1. His immutability: "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Mal. 3:6) Let the earth be convulsed, and let what will take place in this world, and let the children of God come into as many straits as they may, and let their frames and feelings be what they may, their God is the same, without the shadow of a turn.

2. His omnipresence. He is everywhere, to see His people's straits, the craft of their foes, what they need, and the way to deliver them: "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him." (2 Chron. 16:9) So that He is continually with them, and never slumbers nor sleeps. And in this way there is a manifestation of His omnipresence and His omniscience.

3. His wisdom. See in the Scripture how He orders, manages and brings about deliverances for His people, and in such a wise way that He secures all the glory to Himself.

4. Look for a moment at His long-suffering. His forbearance; how He puts up with His children's manners, provocations and insults, which they are continually offering to Him; and like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pities and forbears His saints, time after time.

5. View His mercy in manifesting pardon to their consciences again and again; and by these means He endears Himself to them, and gains their affections to Himself.

6. Power to put all their enemies to shame, and to deliver them, however impossible to flesh and blood. Witness His power displayed at the Red Sea; so that "the Lord God omnipotent reigneth."

7. And one thing more I will mention, and that is, the love of God. Hence He says to His church, "I will rejoice over thee to do thee good, with My heart and with My soul."

So that here is, first, His immutability, He cannot change; His omnipresence, He is everywhere; His omniscience, He sees all things; His wisdom manages all; His long-suffering, He puts up with all; His forbearance endures all; His mercy pardons all; His omnipotence delivers all His people; and His heart being full of love, He is determined to exert Himself for His elect. All things, therefore, shall work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to His purpose.

See how all these attributes were engaged in the behalf of Jacob, Joseph, and the children of Israel at the Red Sea, in bringing them to the promised land. And see how God appeared in the behalf of poor David. And look at the conduct of God towards poor Mordecai and the Jews; see what wisdom, power and love there was displayed. Take notice of God's dealings with the prophet Daniel in the lion's den, the three children in the fiery furnace, and poor Peter in bringing him out of prison, and then say, if you can, that there is anything wanting in the God of elect men to do them good. And is He not the God of salvation? And such a God as this is the Christian's; and says God to His church, "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, I am thy God." (Isa. 41:10) And as the poet says "How can I sink with such a prop as my eternal God?" So that God gives Himself in covenant love to His people.

In the next place, He gives us Christ, and all the blessings of grace in Him; as Paul says, "Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (2 Tim. 1:9) And elsewhere he says we are "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before Him in love." (Eph. 1:3,4) So that the elect are in Christ. And so likewise are all the blessings of salvation deposited in Him by God the Father: "For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell;" (Col. 1:19) and it is out of that fullness that His people receive grace for grace. "And of Him," that is, of God the Father, "are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;" (1 Cor. 1:30) that he that glorieth should glory in the Lord.

So that God communicates, first, Himself; and, secondly, His dear Son, gives us grace in Him, and all blessings in Him. This is done in His purpose of grace, and in covenant love. But though this is all done in God's mind, yet the man knows nothing about it; for God may make Himself over in His covenant favor to poor sinners as their God, give them grace in Christ, so that they have all that can be needed in Christ; but there must be an actual communication to them in time, and this is done by God communicating His Spirit, and that Spirit communicating grace out of the fullness of Christ. Now the Spirit is said to proceed from the Father and the Son; as Christ says, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me." (John 15:26) In fact, let men have what they may in Christ, until they are in possession of the Spirit, or the Spirit is communicated to them, they know nothing of communion with God; for, as before observed, no man can be beforehand with God.

Man cannot communicate to God until god has communicated to man. Hence the Spirit is promised to all God's elect as the Spirit of grace and supplication: "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplications." (Zech. 12:10) And, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessings upon thine offspring." (Isa. 44:3) And again, "I shall put My Spirit in you, and ye shall live." (Ezek. 37:14) Now these promises shall be fulfilled in all God's elect in God's appointed time and way; and when this blessing is by God communicated to a poor sinner, the sinner begins to communicate to God, but not before. This idea I wish to keep up, that God is always first with the sinner.

But then observe, the Spirit may come upon men and never take up His abode with them as a Spirit of grace. He came upon two men, namely, Bezaleel and Aholiab, to qualify them to do the work of the tabernacle that was to be erected in the wilderness: "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee." (Exod. 31:1-6) But this is very wide or different from His coming into a sinner's soul as the Spirit of grace and supplication.

And according to the testimony of the prophet Isaiah, the ploughman in the field is instructed by God for His business: "For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him." (Isa. 28:24-27) So it was with the prophet Balaam, the Spirit of God came upon him, and he spake some grand and glorious truths about Israel's safety and their temporal felicity, and even prophesied of the Lord Jesus Christ; but then he was destitute of saving grace. And to this day there are men that speak gracious truths, and yet are not in possession of a Spirit of grace and of supplication. And Saul was in possession of the spirit of prophecy, but was he in possession of grace? No, not a grain; but, in fact, a slave to the devil. And Paul says, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Cor. 13:1-3) So that, according to all these accounts, a man may be very ingenious in temporal matters, prophesy truths as Balaam did in a measure, have a great deal of knowledge, understand all mysteries, have a deal of historical, temporary, presumptuous faith, and if a person of property give away his all to the poor, and in defence of his faith and practice be burned at the stake, and be able to speak very eloquently about divine things, and yet be destitute of the Spirit of grace, notwithstanding all these gifts, and the blaze such a one makes, and the figure he may cut before men; for all this, and a deal more, is far short of the treasure of God's grace in the heart.

But God's elect are all in due time favored with the Spirit of grace and supplication, and when they are thus blessed they will begin to communicate to God. And I wish to observe, that when the good Spirit comes to take up His abode with one of God's elect, He forms a new man of grace in the soul, which is quite perfect or complete; and though there is room for this new man to grow, yet there is no room for any more members. It is a perfect new man of grace, produced by God's Spirit in the soul. Hence Christ says, "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." John calls it the seed of God, and so does Peter; and Paul calls it a new man. Now this comes from the love of God, through the Mediator, by the Holy Ghost into the soul; and in such a soul there is the fear of the Lord, said by Solomon to be the beginning of wisdom, that is in the soul of man; or, in plain terms, there is wisdom in the heart where divine fear is, and nowhere else.

By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil; and the fear of the Lord is to hate evil, pride and arrogancy. By this fear men are prevented from evil, and kept from it; it is a new covenant blessing, and a sweet grace of God's Spirit, and one of the promised blessings of God: "I will put My fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from Me." (Jer. 32:40) Where this fear is, there is a reverence of the name of the Lord and a tender conscience, a meditating upon soul concerns and a great deal of thought about death and judgment to come, how matters will go in that great day of account. There is some knowledge of the great distance and disproportion between God and the soul; and the first thing in the morning till the last thing at night is this: "How will matters stand with me at death and judgment?" At the same time there is light diffused by God through the whole soul; so that a man's sins are set in the light of God's countenance, and are ever before him, and he is led to all the dark corners where he has practiced the works of darkness. He flies to the works of the law, to make God, as he supposes, amends for his bad deeds. He works hard and means well. The devil is suffered to work with his besetting sins; his vows, resolutions and promises give way upon trial; he is plunged into sin, and down falls all his Babel-building. To work again he goes; as fast as he builds God pulls down. The law contends against him, finds fault with him; the law condemns him, conscience accuses him, his sins stare him in the face, the wrath of God is felt within, he is guilty before God, and it is heavy upon his conscience. The distance between God and him is felt; and though heaven and earth are against him according to feeling, he keeps in this legal way till he has tried all his strength. And by the good Spirit's teaching, he is led to see and quickened to feel that all his life was a life of rebellion against God, his whole soul all corrupt, his strength perfect weakness, his wisdom all foolishness, his supposed righteousness all sin in the eye of the law; death, judgment and wrath before him; and perhaps all the night long scared with dreams and terrified with visions. And yet under it all there is an honest conscience.

Such a soul will do the truth, and come to the light; and when these feelings in any measure subside, he will be afraid of carnal ease, of taking any comfort to himself, for fear of a deception. He is jealous over himself; he is a hungry soul, and to him every bitter thing is sweeter than carnal ease. He does not want to deceive, nor yet to be deceived; and though the fear that is in him is attended with a deal of slavery, yet such a soul has the fear of the Lord, and this is evidenced by the tenderness of such a man's conscience and the honesty of his soul in the things of God as far as he is taught. And the true light is in him, for it discovers his life, his nature and the whole of his natural religion, or acquired, to be in God's account sin, He sees his heart to be the worst thing in the world, and is put out of conceit with Himself, and all worth and worthiness. He has by the same Spirit life; he feels as well as sees; so that such a soul is a feeling sinner, in opposition to a hardened one, and is really poor in spirit, for he can no longer boast of his good heart; and having this fear, light and life in his soul, and faith to believe in God as a holy, just and righteous Being, faith in His law believes that God would be for ever just in causing him to feel the wrath of it for ever.

He credits what God says of man's fallen state as a sinner before Him, and is at a point that, if ever he stands before God, it must be in God's own way, through Christ. As the power of God has operated upon his soul, he is willing to leave all and to come to Christ for all; and such a poor soul is welcome to the dear Redeemer, for He came into the world to seek and to save the lost, and He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. Some of the Lord's people feel these things more than others, I firmly believe, and some open, notorious sinners have not so much self-righteousness to be stripped of as others; but they are all blest with the fear of God, are truly illuminated to see the state they are in before God, and the need of Christ to save them. They all feel their lost state, and hunger and thirst after Christ in His Person and work to be manifested to them and in them; and the power of God has made them willing to come empty to Christ for all that they need. As soon as these things are in the soul of a poor sinner, he will, under the influence of them, begin to communicate to God by honestly confessing to God what a miserable sinner he is, and under it all he will make an acknowledgment to God of His kindness to him as a sinner, for all His long-suffering mercy in putting up with his manifold sins to the present time.

Such a soul has a tribunal erected in him, and the bills that are brought in against him by law and justice are all signed by conscience, so that he is altogether guilty. He sees it, he feels it, he falls down under it, and, like the poor publican, he confesses his sin to God; and it is no easy thing for a poor sinner who feels all against him to come before that God whom he has sinned against and honestly confess his vileness to Him. A man may very easily say that he is a sinner, as many in a hypocritical way do, but never feel what sin or guilt is; such, as the Church of England expresses it, "cloak and dissemble" their sins before God, and by words say that they are "tied and bound with the chain of their sins," when at the same time they neither see nor feel what sin or guilt is. Such are not honest in their confessions. But the good Spirit makes the heart honest, and conscience is exposed to the force of truth, a discovery of sin is made, and under the influence of life it is felt. By a divine power the will is bended towards God, and the soul is led to confess its vileness before God, and what it deserves for sin; and the long-suffering mercy of God is viewed very great, inasmuch as the rebel is still spared, and God has not cut him down as a cumberer of the ground and sent him into the pit of destruction. Now if I am led in heart and soul to communicate to God by humble confessions, it please God and it honors God, for the sinner's views of himself will be according to God's Word.

Further, such a sinner is brought to cry to God for mercy. Feeling his sin and his guilt he seeks for pardon, and the blessed Spirit helps his infirmities; and in the midst of all his confusion and shame, he is earnestly begging, like the poor publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" and like David, "For Thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great." (Ps. 25:11) And finding himself sinking, he prays, "Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." (Ps. 61:2) Now the blessed Spirit, by these confessions and supplications, leads the poor sinner to communicate to God his desires, his wants, his troubles; and as the soul vents out its grief by confession and prayer, it gets a little ease. The burden is in some measure transferred from the poor sinner's mind and cast upon God; as the psalmist says, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee." (Ps. 55:22) This was poor David's case. When trouble was conceived in his mind, and God's hand was heavy upon him, and no venting it out before God in confession and prayer, he speaks as follows: "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned into the drought of summer." But then mark the good success he had as soon as the good Spirit led him to confess and pray: "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. (Ps. 32:3-5)

Various are the changes in such a person's mind. Sometimes a particular feeling of sin, misery, guilt, wrath, attended with a deal of fear; sometimes a spirit of confession and prayer, and a very great appetite for a deliverance out of all distress, so that the soul hungers and thirsts after the blood and righteousness of the dear Redeemer. At other times the keenness of all these things shall abate, and a spirit of deadness shall prevail, and some foolish, vain things that are in this world shall meet with entertainment in the mind, until fresh troubles come, and all the troubles coming on afresh, if not ten times heavier than ever. Deadness is gone, and confession and prayer go on; and such a soul has such discoveries of its corrupted state that it is at a loss for words to express it. It has a deep sense of its need of a crucified Saviour. The blessed Spirit discovers the suitability of the Lord Jesus to a poor sinner in such a state, that the sinner is stirred up again and again to beg and pray for God's mercy to be made known to his bleeding conscience, through the work of a crucified Christ. Such a sinner is taught that he never can have mercy in any other channel, for justice will not admit of mercy's flowing to me, as a sinner, without satisfaction; and it is satisfied through Christ, and all pardoning mercy comes through Him. The sinner is taught this and, knowing his want of it, he cries to God for it. Now, a poor soul that is favored with the Spirit of grace does communicate to God in this way, by confession and prayer.

Furthermore, this blessed Spirit leads to many things that have a tendency to encourage such a poor soul, and there are a few things that have been the means of encouraging my soul in this way of seeking God. First, the declarations of God's mercy as revealed in God's Word: "For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee." Again, "For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption." "Thou art a God ready to pardon." "For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed; for the Lord dwelleth in Zion." And His covenant name is suited to such a soul: "The Lord God, gracious and merciful; slow to anger, abundant in goodness and truth, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin." "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared."

In the next place, there are many sweet invitations in God's Word, such as these: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isa. 55:1) "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly," or heart, "shall flow rivers of living water." "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." And the dear Redeemer says, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Again. There are many promises made to such a soul, as, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled." And, says Christ, "Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out."

Again. There are many sweet examples of God's mercy to vile sinners, such as an idolatrous Manasseh, poor David, Jonah, Mary Magdalene, the thief upon the cross, the publican in the temple, Saul of Tarsus, and that black list in Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians. God is as full of grace and mercy now as He was then, for there is nothing too hard for the Lord; and Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday, and will be so for ever.

And one thing more is worthy of notice, and that is, that every cry that His Spirit produces in the soul of man shall be certainly answered in God's time and way. Hence says Hannah, "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill." (1 Sam. 2:8) "He heareth the poor, and despiseth not His prisoners." (Ps. 69:33) "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer." (Ps. 102:17) "The needy shall not alway be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever." (Ps. 9:18) "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; He also will hear their cry, and will save them;" (Ps. 145:19) and all that call upon Him in sincerity and in truth shall be saved.

Now these things, under the blessed Spirit's leading and teaching, have a tendency to encourage such a soul to press forward, notwithstanding the roughness of the way, and never to give up confessing, begging, pleading and supplicating, though heaven and earth at times may make against him according to his views and feelings, as long as there is one promise in God's Word to give him any encouragement. The devil will lay hard at such a soul to keep him from any comfortable hold of Christ crucified; but the blessed Spirit, in the midst of all opposition, leads him on, gives him fresh light and life, and sometimes he shall have a sweet visit; for those precious portions of God's Word shall be made so suitable to the soul that there shall be a little comfort found in the soul from these encouragements above, and a firm persuasion in the soul that God in His time will appear. And there is immediately a good hope or an expectation raised in the soul that He will be gracious; the mind is raised from gloom in a measure, and things in the soul wear a pleasant aspect. This humbles the sinner more than ever, and he begins to feel a little godly sorrow operate, a little satisfaction is felt in the soul, and the goodness of God makes the sinner melt and dissolve before God, that he is more than ever struck with the long-suffering mercy of God toward him. Under such influences we feel a cordial love to God's people and to God and His truth; and as God's goodness is believed in, our soul is drawn out to admire Him, to love Him and to adore Him, and this softens our hearts and meekens us before the Lord. His condescension is so great that we are struck with astonishment at it; and though this does not amount to a deliverance, strictly speaking, yet it is a sweet encouraging visit to such a soul; it is the light breaking forth as the morning; and where this is the case, the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in His wings. It is a sweet prop to the soul; it is helping the soul with a little help; and it is highly prized by him, for it was much needed. This is God communicating to the sinner, and the sinner communicating to God.

But it is often the case that a sinner, after these precious visits, gets into the same feelings as before, nurses this comfort, and lives upon it till it is all gone. Darkness is again felt, guilt lies heavy, the temptations of the devil more fierce than ever and perhaps of a tenfold worse nature, if possible, than they were before. Instead of going forth in faith, full of unbelief, looking upon the visits he has had to be a delusion of the devil, and calling himself a thousand fools for even entertaining a thought of salvation. Instead of hoping in God's mercy, a desponding in the mind, and that little access to God that was felt attended with the greatest distance, so that we know what Solomon says is true, that "hope deferred maketh the heart sick;" and the devil insisting upon it that all that was felt was nothing but natural, and that it amounts to the hope and joy of the hypocrite. But though this may be found, and ten times more of the like nature, the same good Spirit that has taught us and led us does not leave us, but springs up in the soul again and again, and favors us with fresh visits; and all former visits are brought fresh to mind and memory, and a deal of encouragement is found under all these visits.

But after all, my fellow-sinners, there must be something more communicated to the poor sinner to make him happy, and to make everything straight between God and him; for though he has these lifts by the way, and they greatly encourage him, yet he wants to enjoy the pardon of sin, to feel the sentence of justification in his soul, to have the love of God in his heart, and for all this to be witnessed in the court of conscience by the unerring witness of God's Spirit.

And this leads me to take notice of another thing that God communicates to a sinner through Christ, and that is mercy displayed in the forgiveness of sin. This is the very blessing that the soul wants to enjoy, for until this is the case, though he has visits in a measure of God's goodness, yet there is something wanting, and that is the blood of Christ to cleanse his conscience from all guilt; or, in other words, a firm persuasion by the Spirit of faith that I am interested in the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ; and until this mercy is communicated to the conscience, there is always something wanting. The poor publican in the temple wanted this mercy; and so did the psalmist: "Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation." The jailer found his need of the same blessing when he cried out, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And poor Mary, at our Lord's feet, knew the want of this blessing; and so does every poor sinner as soon as he is taught to know by feeling the wretched state he is in.

And the soul will find that he cannot feel a going out in thankfulness to God until he is led to believe that his sin is washed away in the fountain of Christ's blood; neither is there a solid peace in the conscience till there is a beholding of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world; nor can the soul find that nearness to God. But when the set time is come to favor the soul with the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins, and God by His blessed Spirit leads the soul forth in faith to receive the atonement of Christ, so that the mercy of God is enjoyed, this is a blessed communication to the sensible sinner's heart; this is the balm of Gilead, the saving health of all nations, a sure remedy for the conscience. As John says, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." The cause of such a sinner's misery is removed at once; that is, sin, in its filth and guilt. He finds a nearness to God; as Paul says, "We are made nigh by the blood of Christ; for through Him we both," that is, Jew and Gentile, "have access by one Spirit unto the Father." This is the grand blessing that brings us nigh, so as to have peace and joy in believing; (Eph. 2:12-18) and sure I am that where this blessing is made known, a soul will be communicating to God thanks, and blessings, and praises for such great mercy.

One thing more that God communicates to a soul is righteousness; and as the man is taught by the Spirit that as a sinner in Adam he is free from righteousness through the Fall, and that he never can get admittance into glory without righteousness, and has been taught to know that he has no strength to work one out and, having life within him, he hungers and thirsts for one, the gospel reveals one suited to his need; and the poor creature being condemned by law and conscience for want of one, it is very suitable to such a poor, self-condemned sinner for the good Spirit to lead him to take a proper view of Christ as a Surety in His undertaking and finished work, and to give him a proper view of how Christ was made sin for His people, that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him. As a faithful Surety He stood in the sinner's law place, and in man's nature He obeyed the law perfectly, and that very obedience is imputed to the sinner that in time believes. It is a righteousness of God's providing; it is a righteousness wrought out by God's co-equal and co-eternal Son in human nature; it is adequate to the demands of law and justice. The Father is well pleased with it, and it is unto and upon all that believe. This is the righteousness that is set forth in the gospel; this, and no other, can give us, as sinners, an abundant entrance into the kingdom of God above.

Now, when the poor soul is by the Spirit of faith persuaded that it has an interest in the blood of Christ, by the same Spirit it also is persuaded of an interest in Him as the Lord his righteousness these two things go together. Hence some have said that there is an active and a passive obedience, and it is true, and if a man is interested in one he is in the other. The active obedience of Christ is His life of obedience to the perceptive part of the law, and His passive obedience is His dying in the sinner's room, and shedding His precious blood to atone for guilt. Christ has done all this for His elect. Hence it is said, "He is brought as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth." (Isa. 53:7) And Peter says, "He bare our sins in His own body on the tree." (1 Pet. 2:24) And Paul says, "He obtained eternal redemption for us." (Heb. 9:12) So that He is the end of the law for righteousness to all that believe. Now, when God the Holy Spirit leads the soul forth in faith to behold Him as the Lord our righteousness, and the good Spirit testifies of His blood and spotless obedience to the conscience, this is what we may call salvation: and thus does God communicate to men from above the mercy seat a grand type of Christ, and the soul goes back in heartfelt acknowledgements to God, the donor of such good.

Such a soul passes sensibly from death to life in this act of believing. He feels peace in his soul, joy in God; the Spirit bears witness to the work, and law, conscience, justice and all appears on the sinner's side, and the blessed Spirit operates as a Comforter, and by a living faith the soul sucks out the blessed contents of the promises, and milks out, and is delighted with the abundance of Zion's glory. Such a soul is sealed up to the day of redemption, anointed with the oil of joy, draws near to God, finds sweet access to Him, and by the Spirit he feels the love of God in Christ made known to him; the fear of death that he had is removed, and the dreadful tormenting thoughts that racked the sinner's mind are all gone, and his meditation is now sweet; he is spiritually minded, so that life and peace is felt.

Whilst he remains under this influence, his conversation will be about heavenly things, and the name of Christ is as ointment poured out in his soul; he is satisfied with the Lord's goodness. This is a foretaste of heaven; as Dr. Watts says, "It is glory begun below." And now it is that the soul is filled with the high praises of God and holds sweet communion with God, is really in possession of the mind of Christ, and walks with God in peace and equity. The mind is most sweetly employed in meditation, the memory retains God's goodness, the will is in sweet submission, the conscience is at peace, the affections are set at God's right hand, so that God is supremely loved, and the understanding understands God's dealings, and the judgment declares it is all right; in humility and love the soul ascends to God, gratitude of heart and the deepest compunction of soul is felt, astonishment at God's kindness is increased, and the soul feelingly says, "Why have I found grace in Thine eyes, seeing I was such a stranger to Thee?" Sweet meltings of soul are felt, godly sorrow and repentance are exercised, and the scripture is fulfilled where it is said, "Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations; when I am pacified toward thee, for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God." Such a soul as this has communion with God in these displays of love and mercy, and with the dear Redeemer in His suffering circumstances, or, as Paul says, he has fellowship with Him in His sufferings; and he has communion with the Holy Spirit by the witness that He bears, the comfort that is felt, the joy that is experienced and the constraints of eternal love which He sheds abroad in the heart.

Now, if you want the whole of this matter in a narrow compass, I will give it you, first, in the words of Paul, and secondly in the words of Peter. Paul says, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 15:13) And Peter says, "Whom having not seen, ye love: in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." (1 Pet. 1:8) And if you want a specimen of all this work, I will give it you in the case of David. For instance, when God arrested David in his conscience, and communicated fear, light, life and power by His Spirit, he cried out, "O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy wrath, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure; for Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh, because of Thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me."

(Ps. 38:4)

Here was a sensible sinner under divine teaching; he had the fear of God in him, he had light to discover, he had life to feel, and power displayed in him, and God rebuking him and chastening him; he was miserable, and the cause of it sin. Well, what does he do? Why, all his false props being taken away, and he sinking in the horrible pit, and sticking fast in the miry clay, he communicates to God by confessions and supplications: "For Thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great." Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." Well, it pleases God to favor him with a confidence that He would appear in the displays of His goodness to him. This helped him and propped him up; as he says, "I had fainted unless I had believed, to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Having a little faith to believe that God would appear, he found a little patience to wait God's time and way, and at last, in answer to his cries, God delivered him. Mark his own words: "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a Rock, and established by goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God." (Ps. 40:1-3)

Now here is God's goodness communicating to David what he really needed; and what does David say to it? Why, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." (Ps. 32:1) And did he not communicate to God? Yes; take it in his own words: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies." (Ps. 103:1-4) And again: "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." (Ps. 34:3,4) All that I have said, you see, was clearly manifested in the experience of David, both on the bitter side and also the bright; God communicated to David, and David communicated back to God.

Now, when the soul is thus blessed, a vital union is felt, and fellowship is enjoyed. God and such souls walk together, being agreed. They talk to each other; the soul talks in confessions, prayers and thank-offerings to God, and God talks in them by His Spirit, and in this way they have communion. They are very fond of each other's company and of hearing each other's voice, and seeing each other's face, and of banqueting together. The soul says, "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth; for Thy love is better than wine." (Songs 1:2) "Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant." "Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to Thy voice; cause me to hear it." (Songs 8:13) And, "Let my beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits." (Songs 4:16) And then observe what the Lord says to those in union with Him: "Thy lips, O My spouse, drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under thy tongue." (Songs 4:11) "O My dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let Me see thy countenance, let Me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely." (Songs 2:14) And indeed the whole Song of Solomon sets forth this union and communion in a wonderful way. Hence He says, "Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved;" and she says to Him, "Let my beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits;" so that they have sweet entertainment on both sides. And it is wonderful how they are charmed with each other's beauty. Hear what the Lord says of His church at large in (Song 4:1-7); and concludes, "Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee." And what does she say of Him, (Song 5:10) to the end? She concludes, "His mouth is most sweet; yea, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

But I hasten on to notice one thing more, and that is, that God communicates a fresh supply of grace to His children to enable them to stand against the devil, the flesh and the world; for they are to come into the field of battle, and not to be always joyful and happy upon the mount, for God has set the day of prosperity and the day of adversity one against the other. The more God's goodness is manifested to the soul, the more will the devil and his subjects war against it. When God's face is hid, the devil comes with his temptations to dispute us out of all that we have felt; and if he cannot do this altogether, he will use all the means he can to draw us into some abominations and if he cannot get us into actual sin, he will stir up all manner of evils in our hearts, and sometimes fill us with blasphemies to curse God, the Bible and all that is good. It is the will of God to try the righteous, and therefore He hides His blessed face from us and we are in darkness, as the Scriptures witness; and this is the devil's opportunity. It is often the case that he comes in like a flood, and sweeps all comfort, rest, peace and joy from the soul, and stirs up his own wretched crop within us, till we appear more like devils than saints. No access to God, no communion is enjoyed; and as it is all wrong within, so it is wrong at times without, and we say as Jacob did, "All these things are against me." "My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord." And, "Hath God forgotten to be gracious?" And we feel that we can do nothing towards getting out of this state. Now, if we were never to come into such a labyrinth, we should not want the promises of God to be fulfilled, nor know what it is to have a fresh supply of grace; hence God suffers us to come into some sore conflicts within that He may have an opportunity of fulfilling His promises to us and in us, because we cannot in any measure communicate to Him in such a state without a fresh supply of God's grace.

Now all this grace is by God the Father, treasured up in Christ, and we are to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Christ is a glorious throne to His Father's house, and we are to come with a humble boldness to a throne of grace that we may obtain grace to help us in time of need; and, by the Holy Spirit, we are favored with it, and we, under its influences communicate to God. And sure I am that the devil will be constantly lying in wait to entrap and to entangle us; our own hearts will always take the devil's part: and we shall be hated of all men for the truth's sake. We have no strength to stand against any evil within or without, or to take a step in God's way. There is no confession, prayer, life nor motion in the soul; no appetite, no hungering nor thirsting, nor one grain of gratitude to God, without the Spirit's influence. But God has declared that His Spirit shall be in His children as a well of living water, springing up in the exercise of faith, hope and love, till we come into glory above, and that He will water us every moment, and by His power keep us night and day; and that we shall bring forth fruit in old age, to show that God is upright and faithful to His Word; as Paul says, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Cor. 1:9) So that, however low the springs may be, the Fountain is full, and the springs shall rise again and again, so that such a soul shall never be famished for good and all (for ever) as long as there is a grain of grace in Christ or a particle of love in God; for, says Christ, "Because I live, ye shall live also;" (John 14:19) and out of His fullness we all receive, and grace for grace. (John 1:16) And in proportion as this grace and love is communicated to us, so we under the blessed influence of the Spirit communicated to God, so that we have communion with each other; and as we are delighted with His communications to us, so He is delighted with our confessions, prayers and praises.

Again. If we are suffered to backslide from Him in any measure, we find the sensible intercourse stopped up between God and us, and sin is of a hardening nature, and we should never commune with God any more if He did not communicate to us a meek, soft spirit. Under this we confess to Him our vileness, and implore His mercy afresh; He hears, and answers, and makes Himself known to us as a sin-pardoning God again and again, as He did to Ephraim; and this leads us to admire Him, to love Him and to bless and praise His holy name for all His mercies to us, the most unworthy of all His creatures. And indeed, praise is all that He gets for saving men; it is the only revenue of His kingdom, and He inhabits the praises of Israel; and sure I am that the end of God in His purpose of grace is His own glory in the salvation of men from Satan, sin, guilt, wrath, law, death and damnation. This is the end of Christ's death; and it is the end of God's Spirit in regenerating and making us meet for heaven. And this is in some measure answered in this world when the soul is brought to praise God in truth here; and it will be fully accomplished in the world to come, when the whole body of God's elect are all brought to cast their crowns before His throne, and unitedly ascribe salvation to God and the Lamb for ever and ever. Here in this world communion with God is sadly interrupted, but in that blessed abode there will be nothing to interrupt it to all eternity.

Communion with God is found in this world in the means of God's appointments, and we are directed to be diligent in all the means of grace; and God's promise is that "the diligent soul shall be made fat." And we have found Him in prayer, hearing and reading His Word, in conversation with His family; and at times He meets with us when lawfully employed in this world. But let Him come when He may, His visits are sweet and precious. And if we narrowly watch His hand in providence and in the displays of His grace to us, and notice what there is going on in our hearts against Him, I am sure there is not a day passes over us but that we shall feel that we want supplies of grace, and also have something to confess to God, stand in need of prayer, and also have something to be thankful to God for, if we are led to observe the feelings of our own souls within and God's kind providence without.

Now, by the above things we see the benefits of Christ as our Ark and our Mercy seat. Were it not for God's love, we should never be thus favored; and were it not for Christ Jesus, we never have any communion with God. God's Spirit and all grace are, you see, communicated through Christ as a channel. The Spirit comes, and the Spirit communicates grace, such as fear, light, life, faith, hope and love, patience, meekness, true humility, godly sorrow and repentance. Mercy is displayed in pardoning sin, righteousness to cover us and to justify us, peace of conscience, love to God, rest for our souls, comfort and joy, a fresh supply of grace, and heaven at last. O the goodness of God to such poor wretches as we! O the love of Christ, undertaking our cause and dying to redeem us! O the love of the Spirit to teach us to know our want of all these things, and for leading us to know our want of all these things, and for leading us to know anything of them in our own hearts so as to have communion with God! Yes, such souls are saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, and without these things not a soul can be saved; for I must be regenerated by God's Spirit, and by that holy Agent made holy, or have a meetness for glory; I must be washed in the blood of Christ from all my sins; and I must also be covered with His righteousness, for no unholy, unclean, unrighteous person can ever gain admittance into the celestial regions of eternal day. As says God in His Word, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord," and there is no holiness but by the Spirit of grace. "The righteous nation that keepeth the truth shall enter in." (Isa. 26:2) The Saviour says they shall enter into life eternal, and shall shine forth as the sun in the glory of their Father's kingdom for ever and ever. But "the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."

And, lastly, no unclean persons shall enter, but all that are washed in the blood of the Lamb shall. O what a mercy to be thus blessed! Let death come when it may, such a soul will be for ever happy, and at the last day shall be publicly owned and honored by the Saviour before men and devils, and they shall hear this glorious sentence: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;" (Matt. 25:34) and will be favored with sweet communion with the Three-in-One to all eternity. God in tender mercy favor you with more of this communion from above this glorious mercy seat in this world, that you may be found among this highly-favored number at last, if God permit, for His name and mercy's sake, through His dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ. To whom be all glory and praise ascribed, now and for evermore. Amen and amen.




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