Preface By John Rusk
To all the tried and tempted-the poor and needy-those that are acquainted with heartwork-such as are sick of themselves and of this world, and followers in reality of the Lord Jesus Christ I humbly send out the following pages, trusting that the Lord may make them a blessing to some of His family. I have found many that I have lent these writings to (whom I believe are real citizens of Zion) express an earnest desire that they should be published, but have ever found backwardness to it, not liking to make any stir, fearing lest self should be working in a secret way; and yet I must say, I have wished some of God's people whom I have known, that have gone into deep waters, to read these things, knowing well the painful path I have traveled to get at them. Then again, I have thought of the many writings of good men that are extant in the world already, and what can you write. I have also thought how it might expose me to the critic, who lays at the catch, wishing to find an occasion of contention and dispute. However, I can truly say, that I never intended, when writing these things, to appear in public; but God's ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts.
Again, not being a public character, I have considered that I should sell but few of them, provided I did publish, and so they would lay on my hands; but on the contrary, I have thought that as there are many in the country who hardly ever hear the Word preached, and if God should bless this feeble attempt, what a blessing it will be; for I find that such things are done by private as well as public characters. Again, how have I myself looked about at old book shops for such things when in trouble, and how glad would I have been to have got them, but, alas! They were very scarce: and now I am encouraged to this by the Holy Scriptures, which say, "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). Again, "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest" (Eccl. 9:10). And though I come forward in much weakness, yet God is pleased to make use of such, to display His own glory; as it is written, "for ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye (foolish, weak, and base things, and things that are not) in Christ Jesus (by eternal election, and by a manifest union) who of God is made unto us, wisdom (to us fools), and righteousness (to us that are convinced by the Holy Spirit, and made to feel that we are ungodly), sanctification (to us who have been made sensible that from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, we are full of wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores), and redemption (to us who well know that we were slaves to the devil and our own lusts), that according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:26-31). But where is it thus written? I answer, by David in Psalm 115. Hence he says, "Not unto us (and repeats it), not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth's sake": the sure mercies of David (which was the Holy Ghost, as you may see by comparing Isaiah 55:3 with 59:21) were given to our Lord Jesus Christ, only with this difference, David, and all believers, had it in measure, but Christ Jesus without measure.
Thus, reader, I have simply related the truth; and as the poor widow cast her two mites into the treasury, so I cast in my one. All blunders and mistakes set to my account; and if you find any thing savory, bless the Lord for it. Be sure to take it in prayer to Him before you read it. It comes out without any correction, as it was first wrote; and therefore you must make allowances. And 0 that the Lord may be pleased to own and honor His own truth, by whomsoever He may see fit to send it, and to pardon and forgive all that may be amiss. With these views I leave it, and do desire and earnestly pray for the prosperity of Zion.
It was my intention when I finished my last book, called the Chequered Life of a Christian, to write no more in this way; but our ways are not God's ways, neither is our thoughts God's thoughts. Last night I suffered sorely, and was brought very low, insomuch that I dreaded the night, and really sunk so, as I was in great fear, but the Lord preserved me from black despair, and gave me to see the light of another day, to Him be all the glory; but it has left a deep impression on my soul. After I came home from work, I thought to go on with Mr. Romaine's Walk of Faith, but it came into my mind to write a little upon the sufferings of Jesus, experienced by the saints, and I therefore committed it to the Saviour, and He brought me through this also. I know it is but little that I can write upon such a mysterious subject, yet I would wish as it is on my mind to say a little, and it can be but little. As the Lord blessed the following pages to me while writing, I hope He will also to some poor tried souls in reading, and He shall have all the glory.
"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ" (2 Cor. 1: 5)
The Apostle Paul in this chapter is encouraging the Church of God at Corinth under their afflictions, and none more capable of it (under God) than Paul: for he well knew the painful path; and indeed this was told him when he first set out in the work, hence God told Ananias, "I will shew Paul what great things he suffer for My name's sake." It is often the case that the sins which by nature we are so fond of, when called by grace they are sure to be a sore burden, and it is done that we may not forget our base original. Paul was a noted persecutor, and now he shall in a particular way and manner suffer persecution; we have a large account of this in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the 6th chapter of this Book; "for as we measure to others, it shall be measured to us again." But take notice of this one thing, and that is, the enemies of Jesus and His family differ entirely in all their views from God, against the church; God intends to humble and chastise us, they intend our destruction; hence they did not persecute Paul because he persecuted the saints no, but for the name of Jesus! All their malice and hatred, with the devil at the head of them, was against Christ, and ever will. But then observe, it is not all sufferings that are the sufferings of Christ no; "Man is born to trouble (every man through sin) as the sparks fly upward"; and some go all their days afflicted in body, in family, and in circumstances, and yet none of these are the sufferings of Christ in our text: but, say you, did not Jesus suffer some of these? Yes; but if a man has nothing more than this, it cannot be proved that these are the sufferings of Christ in our text, for such never have the consolations, whereas these sufferings are sure to have the consolations.
Again, it is not those sufferings that a good man may procure from open backslidings, as David, Peter, and the incestuous person no; this is a being buffeted for our faults; hence Peter says, "but let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters." You know the Arminians boast of their sufferings, as well as their brethren, the Roman Catholics; but, alas! They are only buffeted for their faults.
Again, these sufferings are not God's judgments in vindictive wrath; for though the Lord Jesus suffered all this for His family, yet they never suffer in this way, for at the most it is only a little wrath; but what He suffered was that wrath which we must have endured to all eternity: as Mr. Hart says
"At most we do but taste the cup, For Thou alone hast drank it up."
Hence, the Saviour speaking by the Prophet says, "Was ever sorrow like unto My sorrow!" No, in this sense there is no comparison. God's judgments do come on the wicked, as Pharaoh, and others; but none of this is the sufferings of Christ in our text; for such shall have the consolations.
We will now endeavor, as the Lord shall assist, to treat a little about these sufferings in our text; and,
1. Show that they abound.
2. Treat of the consolations, and that they abound also by Christ.
And O that the blessed Spirit of Jesus may lead us into these blessed truths! For it is His work to testify of Jesus, and to take of the things of Jesus, and show them to us. But if He does not, we cannot get properly into the subject.
Then observe, the Lord Jesus was rich; as the Eternal God He possessed all riches, being equal with the Father and the Holy Ghost; but though He was rich (infinitely so), yet for our sakes He became poor; He therefore condescended to become incarnate, and take our nature into union with His Divine Person, which union took place manifestly in the Virgin's womb; He was made under the Law, and therefore stood in our Law place; He was born of poor parents, in a mean place, a stable; there the Virgin Mary brought Him forth, for there was no room for Him in the inn. At eight days old, He was circumcised according to the Law; and at that very time all the sins of the whole elect world were placed to His account, for at that time they were transferred from us to Him; hence the Apostle Paul says, "we put off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ"; and He carried them about with Him for thirty-three years; went about doing good to the bodies and souls of men; He wrought out a perfect righteousness; obeyed every command of His Heavenly Father; sought His Father's glory in all things; preached the Gospel; suffered hunger and thirst; was in the mountain whole nights praying to His Father; was hated, despised, persecuted, and rejected of men; abhorred by whole nations; and at last He was apprehended and taken; stood at Pilate's bar condemned (being responsible for us); here justice held Him fast, and let us go, "Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered," from the stroke; they mocked Him; spit upon Him; put on Him a purple robe; scourged Him; put on Him a crown of thorns; and said, "hail, King of the Jews!" Then they nailed Him to the Cross, and here the powers of darkness in full force engaged Him; our sins laid heavy on Him (this He well knew and expected), when in the garden of Gethsemane He said, "Now is My soul troubled, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and He sweat, as it were, great drops of blood"; and prayed three times, "0 My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not My will but Thine be done," and an angel appeared from heaven strengthening Him; and at last it come; "now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out; and I, if I be lifted up (on the Cross) will draw all men unto Me." On the Cross, they gave Him gall and vinegar, stood and shook their heads, laughing and saying, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save; if He be the Son of God, let Him come down from the Cross, and we will believe Him." His Father hid His face, and poured on Him the wrath and curse of His Holy Law which was due to us; and thus He was crucified between two thieves, finished the whole work, and gave up the ghost.
Having briefly hinted at the sufferings of our blessed Lord and Saviour let us now run the parallel between the believer and Him; for as He has left us an example that we should follow His steps; and as He Himself declares, we shall indeed drink of the cup which He drank of. I say there certainly is a faint resemblance between the Lord Jesus and His family; but, alas! There is no comparison; for His was vindictive wrath, unatoned guilt, and wrath unappeased; which, as I told you before, never could come upon us.
There are nine things in which this resemblance consists, and they are all sufferings.
First, Jesus Christ felt the weight of our sins, as already observed, "He bore our sins from the cradle to the Cross." And God's family shall feel the weight (in a measure) of their own sins, that they may faintly enter into the sufferings of the Lord Jesus; for how is it possible that we can tell, in the least, what He felt of sin, if we never feel, in any measure, the weight of our own; hence Paul declares, "that every man shall bear his own burden," and sin is a sore burden, wherever it is felt. It was this that made David cry out, "I have no soundness in my flesh because of Thine anger, nor rest in my bones because of my sins; they are gone over my head, a sore burden, too heavy for me." Now if they are so keenly felt by God's elect, that have a body of sin and death in them, how infinitely more must sin be felt by he Lord Jesus who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, separate from sinners, and yet had the sins of the whole elect world (millions of souls) placed to His account, and He had them all His days, from His circumcision to the Cross; hence the Prophet Isaiah, declares, that "God laid upon Him (or caused to meet upon Him) the iniquities of us all." All the sins of every vessel of mercy before Jesus came in the flesh, and all the sins of every chosen vessel after He came down to the end of time, were caused to meet upon Him. Ah! Fellow traveler, sin is no trifling thing, to occasion the Son of God to wade through such scenes of sufferings for the worst or enemies; "'for while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us." Here was love without a parallel, voluntary, free, sovereign; for He might have left all the human race to perish in their corruption; but as His delights, before time, was with the sons of men, so He manifested that love in not standing at any cost to redeem their soul from Satan, sin, and death. Yes, my dear friends, He rejoiced to undertake the work; hence He says, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished"; and the thought of having us all with Himself forevermore, rejoiced His heart; hence Paul says, "who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, despised the shame," etc., and never was known to murmur nor repine once; "He is led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth." And yet had the tenderest feelings of human nature, the woman's seed tender and delicate; He keenly felt what was coming, when He said, "how am I straitened now is My soul troubled Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me" and sweat as it were great drops of blood, falling to the ground. Now the little of sufferings for sin which we feel, we have procured, so that we have no cause to complain; but, alas! We are continually murmuring at what little we feel; still feel it we shall all our days; for our text says, that these sufferings of Christ abound in us. And if you look back in the light of God, you will see how the discovery of sin has increased in you; and the viler you have seen and felt yourself, the more painful have your feelings been. I say this has gone on, till now you feel yourself the vilest wretch on earth; for as you grow in grace, so also in a knowledge of yourself; and so you can enter more and more into the dreadful nature of sin, and what great sufferings the Lord Jesus went through for you; is it so, or is it not? Then do not the sufferings of Christ abound in you.
Secondly, Jesus Christ was, tempted by Satan; "then was Jesus led by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil." And we read of three things he tempted Jesus to. 1st, Finding the Saviour hungry, he says, "if Thou be the Son of God command that these stones be made bread": 2nd, He tempted Him to worship him: and 3rdly, To cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple; but Jesus foiled him with God's Word every time. But this was not all (for Paul tells us, He was "tempted in all points like unto us"; various ways therefore, and sorely was He tempted: hence He says to His disciples, "ye are they which have continued with Me" in My temptation), no, no. Satan was desperate against the Captain of our salvation all His days; but he had no allies to work upon in the Saviour as he has in us, "the prince of this world cometh, but hath nothing in Me." Then say you He could not feel it so much: yes, and ten thousand tunes more; for the more corruption works, the less are the temptations of Satan felt. But as Mr. Huntington used to say, how do Satan's temptations set upon you after enjoying much of God's presence? Why, say you, very keenly indeed. Very well; and are you not at that time the more like Jesus you are tender in the fear of God walking in obedience of His will believing and trusting in Him. And if at such times you feel Satan's temptations so much, then how very sore must Jesus have felt them, who in His nature was opposite in every sense to Satan.
Then we must expect to suffer from Satan's temptations. And I will tell you how I have acted at those times; then I have gone to the Lord Jesus, as follows: trembling, on the borders of despair, according to my feelings, and I have said, "Lord, Thou hast promised that we shall not be tempted above that we are able, but that Thou wilt make a way for our escape that when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord should lift up a standard against him that we should resist him steadfast in the faith that we should overcome him by Thy precious blood, and by the word of our testimony that Thou wilt succor us under temptation, and knoweth how to deliver the godly out of it that Thou will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax that those that come to Thee Thou wilt in no wise cast out": and I assure you, I have felt a little relief, and the temptation has got weaker. I believe I have gone this way a hundred times with the same words; and this proves the Godhead of Christ, for He has often attended to my cry, when very low, and almost gone. But if you and I never suffered by Satan's temptations, how could we enter into what Jesus suffered? No, not in the least. But, as these sufferings abound, we learn experimentally the worth and value of Him, who was "manifest in the flesh to destroy the works of the devil."
I remember some years ago, one Sunday morning, being sorely tempted to an old besetting sin, and it gained ground fast upon me. I kneeled down to the chair to pray; and yet at that time, I certainly regarded iniquity in my heart; however, against wind and tide, I cried to the Lord Jesus, saying, "0 Thou that overcame all these devils upon the Cross, grant that the victories of Thy death may be felt in me at this time." I got up, and then went again, and shortly the temptation got weaker and weaker, till at last it was all gone.
Yes, fellow sufferer, you never will gain any ground on Satan, but by faith in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Satan trembles when he finds you crying to Him, for He has all power, and He has promised to give us power to tread on serpents, scorpions, and over all the powers of the enemy. These things I have proved again and again; for, I can truly say, I have suffered sorely from Satan. But not only from Satan in his accusations, reproach, condemnation, and blasphemy but
Thirdly, Jesus Christ suffered from men. From the world at large from professors and from His own family.
Ist, The world at large. Hence He says, "the world hates Me, because I testify that the works thereof are evil." And as soon as ever the Lord has put His fear in our hearts, which is to depart from evil, they soon find us out; for it is impossible for us to go on in the old way. Our hearts are now made tender, so that we shun our former companions, and cleave to those that are serious, and appear religious characters; hence Peter says, "wherein they think it strange that you run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you": and this is, at times, painful work, to be spoken evil of, when we are conscious it is without cause, and we do not deserve such treatment from them. David felt this; hence he says, "false witnesses are risen up against me, they laid to my charge that which I knew not." But how infinitely far did the Lord Jesus suffer this way, who was without the least taint of sin; for the very devils were compelled to confess, that He was the Holy One of God. And it is impossible for one of God's family to have to do with worldly men without suffering, let him act how he will; for if he opposes them in all their wicked works, they will be desperate against him, and he will at times keenly feel it: so that he suffers for righteousness sake (or the new man, called created righteousness), this they hate, for it is against the interest of the flesh, and attended with much opposition from corrupt nature; and they, being altogether corrupt, will ever war after the flesh. Yes, and a believer in this has to fight against himself; for every corruption still remains in the best Christian living, and it is no easy thing to deny a man's self, to fight against self; it is like cutting off a right hand and plucking out a right eye. But all this is required; and if a man is determined to war after the flesh, and will not bear his cross, he at once manifests, that he is no disciple of Christ: so that this new nature in us, fights against the world, and all the ungodly practices of it; and against the old man of sin, which works strong for the mastery in ourselves. Again, if through the fear of man we backslide and slip into sin, then it is worse by far; for we suffer for our wrenched conduct, and are buffeted for our faults. This, in time will bring on the rod, stripes, scourges, etc., but this is not suffering for Christ's sake.
But again, as Jesus Christ suffered from the world, so secondly, from professors. And therefore you find that His worst enemies were those that pretended to great things in religion. "From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, etc." (Matt. 16:21). These, as before observed, were religious characters, zealous of the Law of Moses, very holy and devout in appearance; and where are there worse enemies that the Christian has, than those in a profession' And the more light they have, the worse they are, "Ye have seen and hated both Me and My Father." For they know, some of them, how to touch a poor child of God in a sore place, and add to the grief of them whom God has wounded, "for with lies they make the heart of the righteous sad." Hence in the Apostle's days, than enforced, "except ye be circumcised, and keep the Law of Moses, ye cannot be saved"; which Peter calls tempting God to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples, which was unbearable. And plenty there is of this in the day in which we live it is neither Law nor Gospel bitter enemies such are to the pure Gospel of Christ; and, they heap upon God's ministers all kinds of evil names, calling them Antinomians, loose livers, despisers of the Law, spiritual blackguards, etc. When, on the contrary, they are the only people that are an honor to the pure Gospel. But all this, is suffering for Christ's sake, and His sufferings; for if He was not in the believer, the world would love its own. But it is Christ which they are fighting against; hence Paul calls his sufferings the sufferings of Christ, saying, "that I might fill up that which is behind"; a measure of Christ's sufferings, for His body's sake, the Church.
But did Christ leave His work of suffering unfinished? No. Did He leave any thing for Paul to do to complete it? No: for He cried with a loud voice, "it is finished!" But the real meaning is, that if Christ had not been in Paul he would have had no such sufferings; so that it was Christ's sufferings. Christ suffers when His members suffer; for there is an eternal union, "he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of My eye"; and the eye is a tender part. David calls it "shooting at the perfect," or at Christ in David. Cain struck at Christ in Abel; and so did Paul when he persecuted the saints, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
But again, the Lord's family have suffered for His sake in the loss of their lives. What numbers suffered at Smithfield years ago! And this part of suffering always was brought about by pretenders to religion. "The time cometh, when whosoever killeth you will think they do God service." Hence, the Saviour says, "wherefore behold I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee," etc. (Matt. 23:35-37).
Thus the same devil that drove them on to kill the Prince of Life, was desperate also against those prophets, wise men, and scribes, and killed them also. He was a murderer from the beginning; and by Divine permission works in these, his agents, to bring his wicked devices to pass.
But though all are not called to suffer in this way; yet, as Paul says, "For Thy sake are we killed all the day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." And I believe that some suffer more in this way all their days than others that go to the stake; for a man in going to the stake soon gets out of it, although it may be very dreadful; but the others are in deaths oft. Oh! The agony of soul that some are called to endure! And the cruel treatment they meet with, as we read, "they wandered about in sheep skins, goat skins, dens and caves of the earth, being destitute, afflicted and tormented; they wandered in deserts, mountains, dens, and caves of the earth" (Heb. 11:36-37). "They had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, bonds and imprisonments."
Now these are the sufferings of Christ abounding; and though you and I live in a day when there is no outward persecution, yet we know not what we may be called to yet. Our enemies and Christ's enemies are in heart the same as ever; they only want power to put the whole in execution; and I am sure, if we look at the dreadful appearance of things, everything looks very black, the cruel oppression that is going on in the world so rampant, the divisions that are amongst the saints, and the Lord's taking away His ministering servants. I say, these things look very dark this is a cloudy and dark day in which we live; we certainly have been highly favored for many years, and do not rightly know the worth of our privileges.
But, thirdly the Lord Jesus Christ not only suffered from the world, and from professors, but He suffered from His own family. This may appear strange, but it is true; and indeed, strictly speaking, He suffered not only from them, but from them alone; for all His sufferings came wholly and altogether because of their sins; as Mr. Hart says
"They nailed Him to the accursed tree;
They did, my brethren, so did we.
The soldiers pierced His side, 'tis true,
But we have pierced Him through and through."
And another poet says
"Yes, my sins have done the deed,
Drove the nails that fixt Him here,
Crown’d with thorns His sacred head,
Pierc’d Him with a soldier's spear.
Made His soul a sacrifice,
For a sinful world He dies."
And, literally it was some of the elect of God that were engaged in crucifying Him, and putting Him to death, which is very clear from the prayer of our Lord upon the Cross, when He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"; for, it is evident that He never prayed for any but the elect of God; "I pray for them, I pray not for the world." And how did He suffer, when they all forsook Him in His heaviest sufferings, "I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none." Yes, my friends, and how has He suffered from you and me; how have we provoked Him with our whorish hearts, "thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities, and made Me to serve with thy sins"; and if He was not long-suffering, He never would bear with you and I.
Now as Jesus suffered this way, so do you and I. What, say you, do God's family suffer from one another? Yes, they really do. How is this? Say you. Is it not the command of the Lord Jesus that we love one another? And does not John bring this forward, as a proof that we have passed from death unto life? Then how is it, that they suffer one of another? I will tell you: the old man of sin in one believer will, at times, oppose the new man of grace in another. These things I have watched; and I know that my old man has made some of God's children, at times, suffer; for when I have been sure that such have enjoyed God's presence, I have felt such hardness of heart, pride, and such a bitter spirit, that I have felt wrath, jealousy, and indignation work; and have sometimes felt as if I was like King Saul that hated David.
And this will some time strip them of their comfort, and I have been stripped by them in the same way; but this is not the case when they are both alike under the sweet influence of the new man. Then they walk together, and are agreed; then they love one another; then they prove manifestly that they are passed from death unto life.
In this way, the Lord Himself suffered from Peter's old man; hence, when the Saviour told Peter what He should suffer from the chief priests, and that He would be put to death, Peter began to rebuke Him, and said, "this shall never come unto Thee. Jesus answered, get thee behind Me, Satan, for thou art an offense unto Me; thou savorest not the things of God, but those that be of men." "Only by pride cometh contention." The pride of this old man rises high at times in one believer against that sweet humble spirit which the new man discovers in another. I have greatly feared, at such times, that I certainly should take an offense at Zion; and you will find this opposition also from yourself. 0 what have I suffered from this wretched old man! Evil (says Paul) is present with me, so that when I would do good, I cannot; for "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that we cannot do the things that we would."
And here also the new man suffers humility is opposed by wretched pride-meekness by a hard heart love by enmity faith by unbelief hope by despondency peace by bitterness love to God by a love to idols zeal for truth by carelessness and indifference; and so we might go on, and in all this we suffer. We suffer in a twofold sense; for the new man suffers from the old, and this is keenly felt and the old man suffers from the new, and this is keenly felt also: so that it is called crucifixion, which is a lingering death, "I am crucified with Christ," etc. It is also called mortification, and this is suffering, "mortify, therefore, your members which are on the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence and covetousness, which is idolatry," etc. So that there is a double suffering felt in all believers. This is the sufferings of Christ abounding in us, and they are called the afflictions of the Gospel; for when we are under the influence of the old man, we cannot bear the restrictions of the new thus we suffer; and when under the influence of the new man, we cannot bear to be opposed by the old man; thus we ever shall suffer.
All this is the sufferings of Christ; for this fight is in none but those in whom Christ lives. "I live (says Paul), yet not I, but Christ liveth in me"; and God's mystery among the Gentiles is Christ in all believers the hope of glory. All this will go on, and increase more and more, which I have lived to prove; for I can look back ten and fifteen years ago, and can see, as I have come on in the divine life, the truth of our text, that the sufferings of Christ have abounded in me; and I know it is in vain to think of a smooth path; suffer you will, if you belong to Jesus nor will all the promises God has made exclude you from suffering, when the Scripture says, that "a man's enemies are those of his own house." What is the cause of all this do you suppose? Why this opposition is all against the Lord Jesus Christ; "think not that I am come to send peace on the earth, but a sword and a fire"; and instead of peace, rather divisions the father against the son, and the son against the father the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother-the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law-and a man's enemies shall be those of his own house.
Now this takes in the sufferings that God's children are sure to have, both from their fellow Christians, as well as those in the ties of nature; for wherever Christ comes, there is sure to be suffering. Hence the Prophet Isaiah tells us, "that every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood"; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. But what is the cause? Why, "unto us a child is born."
It is clear then, that the text will stand good that "a man's enemies are those of his own house," in the following way; 1st, Those in the ties of nature-the husband and wife lived very happy, all the time they lived together in a natural state, but let grace take possession of one of them, and then sufferings begin. See that blessed worthy servant of Christ, Henry Tanner, for a proof of this assertion, and what he suffered from his wife; the same also in J. Barry, in what he suffered from his rich relations, and how they cast him off. There are sure to be these sufferings in a man's own house, from those that are in natural ties with him. Again, if even it should please God that all in his house were, on the contrary, partakers of grace, yet, every believer has an enemy within him. The old man is sure, as before observed, to oppose the new man and his operations in the other, so that we are sure to suffer even here; for it is impossible to enjoy peace and unanimity, without all together are under the sweet influence of grace, or under something of the teachings of God's Spirit; for two cannot walk together except they are agreed: therefore, if you go home under the sweet enjoyment of God's presence, your wife shall at that time, perhaps, be under the influence of the old man; and though you intended to speak precious things to her, she now has stripped you of your sweet comfort, and you are shut up in bondage. Thus you suffer from her old man; and Satan is pleased at all this.
The same also may be said of the Church of God; it is this wretched nature within us, under the influence of Satan, which occasions all this strife. A society of Christians shall meet together; some shall be very happy in the Lord, and the others, although partakers of grace, shall at that time be miserable, wretched, and of a contentious spirit; this old man will work up in enmity, coldness, hardness of heart, etc., and they will mutter things till they are sure sometimes to rob others, especially the weak in faith. I have felt it from others, and have been under this wretched spirit myself.
I believe that Thomas was under this wretched influence of unbelief, etc., so that "a man's enemies are those of his own house." As I said before, so I repeat it again, a believer is at war with himself; his wretched enemies are within him, and he takes them with him go wherever he will, and never so secure, but what they may rise up and rob him of his choicest comforts; so that the life of a Christian is sure to be a life of sufferings; and go which way you will you never can avoid it. These are the sufferings of Jesus.
Fourthly, As man, and standing in our Law place, He certainly suffered in the flesh by the loss of all earthly things, though Lord of all, and for our sakes only. Now the Lord Jesus was, and is, the Heir of all things. All things are put under His feet; sheep, oxen, fowls of heaven, fishes of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea; yet He lived on the alms of His followers, asked water of the woman at the well, worked a miracle to pay the tribute money, when the silver and gold was His, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. Again, all honor was due to Him; He is worthy to receive honor, power, glory, riches, and strength; but instead of all this, in His humiliation He is dishonored, set at nought, despised and rejected of men, abhorred by the nations, called the poor and needy man, a worm and no man, crucified through weakness, needed the angel to strengthen Him in the garden, needed prayer to His Father, exercised trust, faith, hope, love, fear, etc., with every other grace. Thus, "though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor"; poorer than any of His family ever can be, and sunk lower in feelings than they ever have or will, though He was the Almighty Jehovah. "Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh."
Now as it was with the Head, so it is with the members of His mystical body. "You shall be hated of all men for My name's sake; the servant is not greater than his Lord (it is enough that the servant be as his Lord); if they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they keep My sayings, they will keep yours also." Hence it is, that losses and crosses are sure to come in a very particular way on the followers of Jesus Christ. What do you suppose is meant by such texts as these? "Buy the truth, and sell it not." Again, "the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth; and for joy thereof, goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field" (Matt. 13:44). "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, which when he hath found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he hath, and bought it" (ver. 45-46). "He that will save his life shall lose it, and he that will lose his life for My sake, and the Gospel's, shall find it." "He that will not forsake father, mother, houses, lands, wife, children, and his own life, he cannot be My disciple; he is not worthy of Me." Now all these texts must have some meaning; for we all know that the grace of God is free, "without money and without price"; and yet here is buying and suffering great loss as Peter with the rest declared, "we have left all, and followed Thee"; and Paul suffered the loss of all things.
Dear reader, if you in heart are after the Lord Jesus Christ, you must expect losses and crosses all your days. If your character is undeniable, as a man, you will lose it; see Job. You will be as the offscouring and filth of all things, or the scrapings of a pot-a spectacle of men and angels set at nought of no account dishonored by this world. Your desire through grace will be to live peaceably with all men, and to seek after the salvation of their souls; but the more you persevere, and God keeps you unremittedly at this, the more they will hate, despise, and abhor you. You will separate from them at first, and they will try hard to get you back, by flattery and by appearing very kind to you; but when they find that all their efforts are in vain, then they will fully "separate you from their company, and speak all manner of evil against you (falsely) for Christ's name sake": and thus, for His sake, you will "be killed all the day long, and will be accounted as sheep for the slaughter." These are the sufferings of Christ.
Should we not have supposed that when the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world, that He would have been gladly received by all men? And for this reason, He always went about doing good, healing all manner of diseases, the blind He restored to sight, the deaf He opened their ears, the lame He cured, the dead He raised, worked miracles to feed the hungry, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have been with Me three days, and have nothing to eat; and if I send them away fasting, they will faint by the way," etc. And what did He get for all this? Why, they said, He cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils they called Him gluttonous and a winebibber a friend of publicans (that is, of those that overreach, extort, and are covetous) for a publican was a tax gatherer under the Roman emperor; they cozened and cheated. This view they had of our Lord, when they asked Him, whether it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, or not? And that He was a friend of sinners; that is, that He loved them best that lived in sin and wickedness. They said, He hath a devil and is mad, why hear ye Him? They called the Master of the house Beelzebub, said He broke the Sabbath day, was a blasphemer, and an enemy to Moses; in short, they did all that they possibly could to injure Him in this world; and at last raised false witnesses to put Him to death. This is human nature; here is Arminian perfection in full growth; and here are you and I, reader, but for sovereign grace.
Now let us look at a vessel of mercy, who must suffer with Christ. Well then, he lays in the ruins of the fall-goes on in the broad road-a drunkard-a thief-a Sabbath breaker-a whoremaster-spends his money in waste, and family starving-quarreling and fighting continually, so that he troubles all about him-his children barefooted and ragged through his wretched conduct. Well, is he hated of all men? No; nor in heart of any (but God's people, for they hate his conduct), for though now and then they speak against him, yet they will say, that lie is a good meaning man, and his own enemy, poor fellow; so that all such conduct is hushed up. As for the Pharisee, he loves to see such; for he shines so much the more the worse they are: but such can never be hated, without we deny our Lord's words, "if you were of the world, the world would love its own." Well, let grace take hold of this poor man; he now is quite altered-he is sober, honest, industrious, a good husband, father, neighbor, etc., and lives in the fear of God, giving all the glory to the God of his salvation. Then comes on the sufferings of Christ, sooner or later; and go which way he will, he never can escape if he lives godly in Christ Jesus. Hence David declares, that they are his adversaries, because he follows the thing that good is, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ; for He is the good thing promised to the house of Israel. If you are a good man in power, you may clothe, feed, and give them your property, out of real kindness, but it matters not; though they may appear to like you, it is only in appearance; no, nor was you to be the cause of your family's ruin through doing them good, you never could by all such kind treatment overcome this enmity; see Mr. Huntington's kind usage to Butler, in his book called "Forty Stripes." Hence David says, "false witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not; they rewarded me evil for good, to the spoiling of my soul; but as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth, I humbled my soul with fasting, I behaved myself as though he had been my friend and brother, I bowed down heavily as one that mourneth for his mother; but in mine adversity, they rejoiced and gathered themselves together; yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not; with hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth" (Psa. 35:11-16). And again, "for my love they are my enemies, but I give myself unto prayer." The same also you may see in Job, if you carefully read his sufferings; compare chap. 29 and 30 together, and also 31st chapter.
I know that there is but one thing that will overcome this hatred, and that is, being a partaker of the love of God, in the happy enjoyment of it; hence Solomon tells us, that "a gift in secret pacifieth anger, and a reward in the bosom strong wrath." What a gift is the love of God in Christ Jesus? And if you are a Christian that have been some years in the ways of God, you most likely have found yourself at times in such a fearful state of soul, insomuch that you have feared lest you should be given up to hardness of heart, and at the same time tried in providence to the uttermost. Well, in this condition you have been in company with some that really loved and feared God; yes, and they simply loved you for Christ's sake, and have manifested this love to you in very great acts of kindness, inasmuch as that you yourself have wondered at it; and yet you shall feel cold to them, shut up, hardhearted, and could not act to them as they have to you, according to your present feelings, was it to save your soul; and this shall go on for weeks and months, and you shall feel that after all their kindness you could shake them off, and feel as if you never wish to see them more; yes, and perhaps get in company with some that they formerly were in union with, who will speak against them, and your deceitful heart will so work, if these people appear kind, to take part with them in some little way against your kind friend; this will terrify you, and you will expect to take an offense at Zion altogether. Now this is the same as David's enemies found against David; only you are brought to feel a change; for this gift in secret will pacify the anger, and you shall be brought in honest confession to God, and to acknowledge your faults one to another; or else there is no difference in the human heart. Thus God's family suffer in their character-in the loss of property to enemies-and in hard usage from real saints, after all their kind treatment to them.
But again, the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ may be at tended with the loss of all we have in this world, and our lives also. Now I shall take this up two ways. 1. In supposition; 2. In reality.
1st, In supposition. Therefore God's children suffer very likely as much here, as some do in reality; for Satan being permitted to work, he will suggest to them thousands of fears, losses, crosses, etc., that will never take place; hence he suggested to David that he should one day fall by the hand of Saul, and kept him in continual fear-as Jacob, that he should lose all his children, that all these trials were against him, and that his grey hairs would be brought down with sorrow to the grave. Some also are "all their life subject to bondage, through the fear of (eternal) death." Mr. Huntington speaks of a poor woman, in the Living Testimonies, that was always tossed with tempests, with this text, "He will violently toss thee as a ball in a far country"; and yet she made a good end at death. I myself have been sorely tried that persecuting days would come in my time openly, that I really should be called to give up wife, children, life, and all for Christ; and this coming, when under a feeling sense of my own weakness, I have concluded that I never could do so-that I should turn back in the day of battle-that I could not bear my cross, and therefore no disciple-that I should not endure to the end, and could not be saved-that I to save these things must deny Christ-that my faith was only presumption and that shortly I should be manifested to all the family of God, that I never in heart loved God, His family, nor His truth-and that heavy sufferings would bring up dreadful corruptions that all this time have been buried deep-that I was still in an unpardoned, unjustified state-puffed up with light in the head-a name to live, and as the root of the matter (namely, love) was not in me, I must fall away-that I was alone-not in union with Christ-and that I should make shipwreck of faith; and dreadful passages of Scripture have confirmed these feelings in me, times without number; so that from day to day, more or less, I have expected some judgment to overtake me-that God would leave me also in the hands of the ungodly-and that I should be put in this fire to get my bread that this fire should consume me-that when temptations and persecutions come because of the Word, I should be offended that if I was righteous in Christ, as I had told people, "the righteous are bold as a lion"; but no, I was "the wicked that fleeth when no man pursueth"; and that the fears I had, would in time take place, for "the fear of the wicked shall come on him"; and again, "I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh with desolation, when distress and anguish comes on you, then shall they call, and I will not hear": and really I have appeared to be the very character; my hope has appeared gone, and I have expected black despair to take place; for that I could not endure the chastening of the Lord, and therefore it proved me to be a bastard, and not a son. Thus, under sore temptations, we really may suppose that these things will take place, and particularly when God's hand in providence for a time shall favor all that we feel.
But 2nd, Some are really called to part with all for Christ. Yes, Christian reader, some have been brought to forsake great advantages of a worldly nature, and because God has kept them firm to the truth, they have instead of being rich in worldly prosperity, been penniless; some have been forced to leave their homes and families, and been imprisoned for Christ's sake; see John Bunyan, Rutherford, and many others. Some have to all this sealed the truth with their blood, gone to the stake for Jesus; and though all do not go through these things in reality, yet numbers do in feelings, as before observed; as Mr. Hart says,
"Suffer martyrdom within,
Though it seem less glorious."
From all which we see that sufferings will abound: and in this way of giving up, we are said, to buy the truth, to buy the field, to sell all we have, to lose character, good name, be hated, reproached, persecuted, despised, forsaken, etc., for Christ's sake; and I am sure that head knowledge in these sufferings will give all up. We read in Scripture of some that could not endure; when Christ told the young man to go sell all that he had and give to the poor, and he should have treasure in heaven; to take up his cross and follow Him, he went away sorrowing, for he had great possessions; and the sorrow of this world worketh death. Another says, "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest"; the Lord Jesus answered, "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head": and you hear no more of him. Another comes, "Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go and bid them farewell that are at home." Christ says, "No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God: remember Lot's wife." Another says, "I will follow Thee; but let me first go and bury my father." Christ says, "let the dead bury their dead," etc. Thus property of this world, and fear of coming to want in the young man, poverty, the loss of friends, and love to them above Christ, with even the burial of the body when dead, prevented all these characters (they not being chosen vessels) from following the Lord Jesus.
It matters not what we may call ourselves, whether Church men, Dissenters, Baptists, Calvinists, etc., nothing will secure our standing, but our having the love of God shed abroad in our heart, which proves us to be the elect of God; and this will keep us from falling away, and nothing short of it. Hence, it is charity, or the love of God, "that suffereth long, and is kind; charity endureth all things; charity never faileth." This Paul had, and therefore suffered much; "I endure all things for the elect's sake, that in me Jesus Christ might shew all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting" (1 Tim. 1:16). The ministers of Jesus, sent and commissioned of Him to preach the Word, are sure to suffer greatly; and in particular if intended to be made very useful. They need it in order to go before the flock; to feed both sheep and lambs; and also to keep them humble, and on their watchtower; also that all the glory may redound to God alone. Hence Paul says, as before observed, "I endure all things for the elect's sake"; and exhorts Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ; and again, "whether we be afflicted it is for your consolation and salvation; death worketh in us, but life in you.
Fifthly, Obedience. It is said, that "the Lord Jesus became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross"; but we are not to understand His learning obedience is exactly as we learn it, because He never was disobedient. Nevertheless, He had sinless infirmities; and the human nature did shrink at the Cross. Was not these things inserted, Satan would tempt us to disbelieve the reality of His sufferings. Hence He prayed, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me!" And then mind His obedience, "nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done."
But, alas! What disobedience to the Cross is there in all of us! What kicking, murmuring, and rebellion; and as Mr. Erskine says, "what sinful shifts are used to shun the cross": flesh and blood kicks at it, and cannot endure it. But obedience is one of the greatest things; "to obey is better than sacrifice," Samuel told Saul. Now let me come a little nearer home, and ask my reader a question or two. Then have you not in the course of your experience found out that if you are valiant for truth you will have sore afflictions? And though God has promised "that when you pass through the waters, He will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you," etc., yet you have tried hard to keep out of these waters, rivers, and fires, till you have been afraid some judgment would overtake you; you have seen the cross and tried to shun it: yes, say you, I have really thought my case to be without a parallel, and that I was like Saul, given up to disobedience. I do not doubt it; but for your encouragement there is a great difference between having a bold disobedient spirit, and through weakness and temptation trying to escape the cross, lest we should be consumed.
Now to speak for myself, I feel a principle that would like to stick at nothing, but go without the camp bearing His reproach; but alas! On the other hand, I feel that I am a mere coward, that I shall deny the Lord, and turn back in the day of battle. But at these sinking times, I have found it good from God's Word in meditating on those that were so weak that they could not go over the brook; nevertheless it is said, that they abode by the stuff; and though you and I may feel so weak as to expect daily to fall a prey to the teeth of every foe, and tremble at meeting an enemy; yet God has not left us, bless His name! To give up one truth essential to salvation, though we are often afraid we shall; yet our feet has held His steps, etc., this is abiding by the stuff. No, no; it is not in a bold, daring way, that we oppose the cross; but we would be glad to be strong and valiant for Jesus. Take notice it is in them that are self-willed that Christ speaks of; when He says, "he that will not (mark that, will not) bear his cross": and do you know, poor tempted soul, that the promises are made to the weak; yes, they really are. I do not find that the three which were put in the fiery furnace, were very forward to go in; for if they were, how is it that they were bound, and cast in? No; human nature does not like it. I know that God sometimes gives a great share of His love, and then it may be otherwise; but this is not always the case: yet strength will be given equal to our day; but it is made perfect in our weakness. If you and I did not feel this weakness, how could the Lord be the glory of our strength? Jeremiah was ready to run from the cross, and Jonah did: but you and I never shall gain ground if we do; for Jonah was forced at last to come back, and preach the preaching that God bade him; the path of duty is the path of safety. "Woe to him that striveth with his Maker"; and Jonah declares, that "they that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercies."
But, notwithstanding all this, there is encouragement for the weak and tempted, who are full of fears, concluding that all they do is wrong. Jesus "will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, until He bring forth judgment unto victory, and the isles shall wait for His Law." Say you, my path appears different from the rest of God's family. I once could claim God as my Father, and enjoyed the witness within. I loved the truth, and His family-felt sweet peace and no slavish fear; but now the scene is changed, and I feel sore temptations to despair-I am full of slavish fear and terror-I expect to make shipwreck of faith-I feel cold and shut up to God's family and cause; yes, and feel so hardened, I fear I am like Pharaoh: so that I dread night after night to go to bed, expecting some judgment will overtake me-that I certainly am walking in a snare-that God is angry with me-and that I am disobedient, like King Saul. I know all this, and much more, and have been very near despair; but yet God will not leave us.
These things are very useful, they bring us to close examination, honest confession, and to humble prayer; and though the trial may go on for a time that we may rue our base backslidings, yet He will not contend forever; "for like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him; for He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are but dust." Now the more you and I are tried, the more we shall walk in obedience to God's will; and the Lord is not a hard master, for "He stayeth the rough wind in the day of the east wind." But as we carry about us such a body of sin and death, we must have many weights and burdens laid upon us, to mortify and crucify the old man, that the new man may be discovered, and that we may walk tenderly in obedience to the will of God; and if you look back you must acknowledge that you have procured these things to yourself. David found this; and therefore says, "before I was afflicted, I went astray"; and then mind his prayer, "0 that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes."
An holy obedience to God's will, which is treading in Christ's steps, will be attended with sufferings; and the more you and I labor to live near the Lord Jesus, the more desperate will Satan, sin, death, the world, our old man, and hypocrites be against us continually; hence Paul says, "that when I would do good, evil is present with me." This I find day after day, and so will you, with such sinkings and innumerable fears, as if I was going instantly to destruction. But we are told not to be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the desolation of the wicked when it cometh; for the Lord shall be our confidence, and shall keep our feet from being taken; and again, "he shall not be afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord." It is worth your while to take notice of eminent Bible saints, that walked in obedience to God's will, and yet what fears they had: see Abraham, he obeyed God's voice, kept His charge, His statutes, and His Laws; and yet, "fear not, Abraham, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." Moses also, he was faithful in all God's house; and yet, "be not afraid Moses, neither be thou dismayed": the same to Joshua. Daniel also; "fear not, Daniel, greatly beloved." Job feared God and eschewed evil, and yet he says, "I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know Thou wilt not hold me innocent: even (says he) when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold of my flesh." David, "I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears," this is, I humbly conceive for that time. Paul also, "fear not, Paul, no man shall set on thee to hurt thee"; hence Paul says, "within were fightings, and without were fears." Mary, the mother of our Lord, "fear not, Mary": the shepherds, "fear not": and John, that leaned on the bosom of Jesus, when he saw Him in His glorified state, he says, "and when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead; and He laid His right hand on me; and said, fear not, I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive again forevermore, amen; and (though you are afraid of hell and death, you need not, for) I have the keys."
Now I write thus, to show that these alarming fears do not come on God's children always for disobedience, as Satan often suggests. Indeed, men in general have not these fears; Job tells us, that as for the wicked, "their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them"; and though hypocrites may be full of fears, yet it is when God's judgments come on them, which shortly takes place, as appears in King Saul; but not all through their profession; hence Jude says, "feeding themselves without fear."
I hope this little book will be very useful to the tried and tempted. I write these things from experience; for I believe I am one of the very weakest of God's family, and am sure I am; so that it would rejoice my soul to be the means of "strengthening the weak hands, confirming the feeble knees, and saying to those that are of a fearful heart (as in truth I am) be strong." And what is the language of such poor, timid, weak, fearful creatures? Why, they say, "the Lord has forsaken me"; and Satan suggests, that God left Saul, and an evil spirit from God troubled him; and this fills us with fear. Satan suggests also, God is not your God, or you would not be so dark, confused, and full of these fears; no, you are a sinner in Zion, one of the wicked that is holden with the cords of his sin. But what says God, "fear not, I am with thee; neither be thou dismayed, I am thy God (you are weak, and), I will strengthen thee (you have no helper), I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness."
But in all these fears there are great sufferings; because under temptation it appears to us that God's Word is point blank against us, neither is it possible for us to make it out; as for instance, we read that "a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries," comes on some; and David says, "that fearfulness and trembling took hold on him, he was afraid of God's judgments." Now we conclude that we are the former and, oh, how the soul sinks lower and lower, for we know not where it will end; and all this after being at a full point about our state. I assure you, I know what I am writing about; and it has gone so far with me, that I have expected every night to be my last: but the Lord has appeared again and again, and brought me out. Still I am as weak as ever. I believe there is much contained in those words, "for we which live, are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal flesh"; so that always being delivered unto death is the life of Jesus manifested; and yet such are said to live. These are sufferings.
Oh, how I do feel at times for the tried and tempted; and yet such, under all this, may be walking in holy obedience. Take notice, "who is amongst you that feareth the Lord, and obeyeth the voice of His servant; that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God."
Sixthly, Jesus Christ was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs. Hence, He says, by the Prophet Jeremiah, "Behold and see! All ye that pass by; was ever sorrow like unto My sorrow?" To relate His sorrow and grief is impossible as it really was. Sorrow and grief we all know arises from troubles and distresses; and surely the Lord Jesus had continual troubles; the weight of all our sins all His days, the whole of God's elect, millions of souls! Now if our sins, when we are made sensible of them, are so keenly felt, as David says, "a sore burden, too heavy for me"; then what an inexpressible weight must these sins, and the guilt of them, have been on the holy, harmless, Son of God, so tender as He was Himself; add to this, the cruel treatment of men, watching over His ways, works, and actions; trying to catch Him in His words, contradicting Him, accusing Him, etc., devils also tempting Him, and exerting all their malicious powers against Him; the vindictive wrath of God due to us poured on Him. Truly, the Prophet Isaiah might well say, "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs." He found sorrow also even from His disciples, who forsook Him and fled, "I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none"; and this to continue all His days; mocked, spit upon, crowned with thorns, and nailed to the tree between two thieves. Surely never was sorrow like unto His; the poet might well say, when speaking of His sufferings
"Who can rightly comprehend,
Their beginning and their end;
'Tis to God, and God alone,
That their weight is filly known."
Jesus was dishonored; false witnesses arose against Him; They called Him a fellow, a deceiver, Beelzebub, gluttonous, winebibber. On the Cross they reviled Him shook their heads and laughed; crying, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save; let Him come down from the Cross, and we will believe Him!" Oh, the dreadful hardness of man's heart! Bidding defiance to Omnipotence! To their Maker! To Him in whose hand their breath was! Truly, my reader, you and I have no stone to cast at them; for we are by nature just the same. How can we read of His sufferings with a heart like an adamant? I feel it so hard at times that I fear I am like Pharaoh;
"Goodness and wrath in vain combine,
To stir this stupid heart of mine."
But this was their hour, and the power of darkness.
"A man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs." But though our sorrow was not like His; yet, as we are to follow His steps, we shall have a measure of His sufferings. We shall know something of sorrow and grief if we belong to Jesus; and, therefore, as soon as His grace is put in our hearts, we must expect sorrow and grief. Hearing the Word preached, when it all appears against us, causes sorrow; hence Paul says, "who are they that make me glad, but they that are made sorry by me." When the Word cuts us, and we expect it to cut us clean off. Again, a discovery of our wretched hearts, and the aboundings of iniquity, this will cause us sorrow and grief all our days. I felt it sorely this very day. Backslidings in heart from God, causes sorrow; but especially, when openly, as David, Peter, and the incestuous person, who was put out of the church, and delivered to Satan; Paul tells them to receive him again, lest he be overwhelmed with overmuch sorrow. (2 Cor. 2:7) Satan's temptations; this cruel world, with its flatteries and frowns, and everything in it opposing us, in our following Jesus, both from within and without.
I say all these things cause sorrow, and may all be called the sufferings of Jesus; because our having grace, makes us feel it; which grace comes from His fullness. Sorrow arises also, when God takes away a faithful laborer in His vineyard, or one that has been eminently useful in ministering to the necessities of the saints; for it is a great loss to the Church of God: hence Paul, speaking of Epaphroditus, says, "he is my brother and companion in labor, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants: for indeed he was sick, nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow." And, as before observed, if so in taking away such helps in the church, how much more did the disciples feel when our Lord was taken from them? It is often the case, that God's children, let their situation in life be whatever it may as to worldly things, have a bitter ingredient mixed with it. Hagar and her son shall sorely vex Sarah. Saul shall vex David for years; and Hannah shall be long vexed with Peninah; so that she is called a woman of a sorrowful spirit. These things are intended to break the heart; for "by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken"; and when broken, there is work for the Lord Jesus to bind such up. These things are intended to bring Jesus and us together; He bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows; and we are to know a little, and it is but little that we can know of what He felt for us.
Seventhly, There is nothing more staggering to a child of God than this-after God has delivered his soul, and he enjoys communion and fellowship with Him, delights in His Word, loves His family, enjoys peace, rest, quietness-"wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace"-he feels the Spirit's witness, the sentence of justification, can claim God as his Father, feels joy and peace in believing, and expects he is going to die and be with Jesus-for his soul is filled with the consolations of God's Spirit-I say, for the scene to change-all the evils of his nature to rise up, to feel everything quite opposite, no access to God, no delight in His Word, cold to His family, confusion and bitterness instead of peace, rest and quietness, he feels condemned instead of the Spirit's witness, cannot believe that God is his Father, but fears he has been presumptuous in claiming Him, and fears he shall die and go to hell, instead of being with Jesus. Is it possible? Say you. Yes; really it is! And I am a living witness of what I am writing; for I was once so happy, at such a point, that I really would willingly and cheerfully gone into any fire literally, and been burnt to death, for the love I then felt to the Lord Jesus; yes, with as much pleasure as I would when very hungry sit down to eat; and since that I have been so sorely tried and tempted again and again, that I have expected to be consumed by the wrath of God, would fain flee out of His hand, have trembled at His majesty, and been afraid some judgment would overtake me; dreaded to go to bed, expecting to go to hell after all. Oh the dreadful sinkings of soul, and the expectations of wrath, the hopeless state and alarming feelings I can never describe! And after all this, got back to my former standing; then sunk as low again, and then come out again.
Say you, all this appears very strange! Yes, it does, and so says the Apostle Peter, "beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." (1 Pet. 4:12-13) These are called the sufferings of Christ; and so they are if you take particular notice; hence you find that when He was baptized by John at the river Jordan, that "the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:16-17) "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil." (Matt. 4:1) Now compare this with our experience, as recorded in 1 Peter 1:6,7 he is speaking of the saints' inheritance, and says, "wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, may be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ." Thus you see, it is not only given in our behalf to believe but also to suffer for His name sake. I never suffered so under temptation, as I do in writing this little book; the Lord only knows whether I shall be able to finish it: my path is a very painful path, I assure you.
Eighthly, God the Father hid His face from His dear Son; and so He does from us. Therefore, the Lord Jesus cries out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" And, indeed, this is the heaviest cross and the greatest sufferings we can have: all others when compared to this are light; but it is a truth, and we shall experience it; hence the Prophet Isaiah says, "verily, Thou art a God that hideth Thyself, O God of Israel! The Saviour!" To this job agrees, saying, "when He hideth His face, who can behold Him?" etc. There is not an enemy we have got, but will show themselves when the Lord hides His face. I have been surrounded with enemies, troubles, and afflictions; but when the Lord has appeared, I have wondered at the change. Death is a formidable enemy; but when the Lord appears, then says David, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me," etc. See also with what fortitude he approached Goliath of Gath. Every corruption also of the heart appears gone for that time, when we enjoy His presence; but let Him withdraw, and a dismal gloom appears in everything we put our hand to. But this is a comfort, He will never finally go away; it is for the trial of faith that He goes, or else because we have backslidden from Him: and when we have been well humbled and brought low, that we may know our dreadful loss, and confess our abominations, He then comes again, and lets us know that His love to us is without variableness, or the shadow of a turning.
Now, then, look at the complaints of Bible saints, and look as narrowly at your own, let them be as extensive as ever they may, and this one thing will answer them all. What? Why, the light of the Lord's countenance! And if you are a quickened soul, and the Lord grants you your desire in letting you have everything you want, except this, you would be wretched and miserable. If you deny this, your soul is in a very backsliding state indeed, and you are gone far from God, and that is the truth. Paul tells us, that he took "pleasure in reproaches, necessities, distresses; yea, he gloried in his infirmities," etc. What was the cause? Why, the power of Christ resting on him. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me; for when I am weak, then am I strong."
And the more God favors you with His presence the greater will your trials and sufferings be; for none feel themselves so weak as those do that enjoy a good share of His presence; see David running from Absalom his son. Therefore this is no small part of the sufferings of Christ which abound in us; see poor job, "0 that I knew where I might find Him," etc. Job knew that all would be right if he found Him, and he went forward, backward, on the left hand, and on the right, but did not succeed. The church also in the Song, "by night on my bed I sought Him whom my soul loveth; I sought Him, but I found Him not."
Yes, reader, if your heart and soul is set upon Him, you will find it very hard indeed to get at Him, as the poor woman did for the press; and as hard to retain Him. The poor disciples found this going to Emmaus, and dreadful complaints there was till He discovered Himself; but shortly after this He was gone. However, when we leave this world we shall enjoy His presence forever and ever, without a cloud; but this is to be a suffering path.
Ninthly, Jesus Christ certainly was chastened for our sins; hence the Prophet Isaiah says, "the chastisement of our peace (or that procured our peace), was upon Him," as it reads in the margin. Jesus Christ was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; but as He undertook our cause, He stood in our Law place; and therefore, by imputation, was the greatest sinner (with reverence be it spoken) that ever lived; but none of His own. The devils owned and confessed Him to be the Holy One of God; and Jesus said to the Pharisees, "which of you convinceth Me of sin?" Pilate and his wife owned He was a just person; and so did the thief on the cross. Nevertheless, as He became surety for His people-"He that becomes surety must smart for it"-now comes on chastisements-the rod of God is laid upon Him-"smite the Shepherd" "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him." He saw affliction by the rod of God's wrath, and it was poured forth on Him to the uttermost. God the Father spared not His own Son-His heart was melted like wax-He trod the winepress alone, the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. The wicked are a rod in God's hand; they afflicted Him all His days cruelly-at Pilate's bar He did not answer in His own defense, for He was responsible for us-stood guilty by imputation, and no other way; hence He says, "the cup which My Father bath given Me shall I not drink it." He did drink it up. This is but a faint resemblance of His chastisement; neither can I, by any means, do the text justice. Paul says, "He was made sin-became a curse"; so that standing under the Law in our room and stead, we are sure His chastisement must have been very great; for it is "by His stripes we are healed."
Now as it respects chastisement, we are to have a measure of this; we are to drink of the cup that He drank of. Not that Jesus left anything undone; no, He finished the work; but this is the only way for us to have fellowship with Him in His sufferings. In this way we are brought to know a little of what He went through, neither could we know it any other way; but then, as the thief on the cross confessed to his fellow thief, "we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our punishment; but this (God) Man hath done nothing amiss."
Now God chastens us out of His Law; in which we learn sooner or later six things.
1. We learn that we are sinners; "by the Law is the knowledge of sin"; and God visits sin with a rod, and iniquity with scourges: but the Law of itself will not do; the Spirit of God quickens the sinner, and applies the Law.
2. We learn that this Law is spiritual; which no man living believes in his heart without an application, nor ever will, but God's elect. But we tremble knowing the extent of it, and that we are quite opposite to it; for it calls for love to God and love to our neighbor, and we feel enmity to God, hateful and hating one another. This is really our true character.
3. We learn the righteousness and holiness of God in His Holy Law, and that it is a revelation of the wrath of God. Terror, horror, bondage, and slavish fear is felt, and we expect to be consumed; we should be glad if we never had been born, or that we could die like beasts; for nothing but destruction appears in view.
4. We learn the insufficiency of all sound notions of truth, all formal and outside religion, and can take to ourselves the threatening parts of God's Word, passages that really belong to hypocrites; everything that a man has, either natural or acquired, gives way in these storms, and if he has nothing more, he is sure to fall away when the trial comes.
5. We learn that this is our trial for eternity; that everyone, in a greater or lesser degree, must go through this; for "judgment must begin at the house of God"; and they that have it here will not be judged in the great day; no. Christ will say to them, "come, ye blessed," etc.
6. This is exactly agreeable to the experience of Bible saints; and we learn that it is so, and great satisfaction it is to us when the trial is over; hence it is called being lost, ready to perish, foreseeing the evil, and hiding ourselves in Christ the hiding place, being delivered from going down to the pit, a brand plucked out of the fire; and in our deepest trouble there is a cry in the heart by the Good Spirit for mercy, "they shall come after Him in chains," etc. "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord." Now I will not say that all God's children begin in this way; but they will find it out, sooner or later, just as God pleases, in a greater or lesser degree.
This then is chastisement: and various other things sometimes are connected with it, as cross trying providences, family and bodily afflictions, cross, unruly, and disobedient children; debts of long standing, which have been contracted to keep the family from starving; cruel oppression from this world; everyone taking advantage; bitterness of soul in all a man undertakes, for God frowns on him, and walks contrary to Him on account of sin; cutting reproof and rebuke under the Word, in reading it or with God's saints, so that our life is a burden; dreadful temptations to despair, and to give up all for lost; accusations from Satan, conscience, and the world; every day we get over appears a miracle; and really we expect the execution of the sentence, "in the morning would God it were evening, and in the evening would God it were morning"; for we have no assurance of our life, it hangs in doubt. And let it be observed, that whatever real comforts such may have had before the chastisement took place, nothing of that is any antidote in the least to help us-no, but the contrariwise; for under this teaching, and while learning these lessons, all that we had before appears presumption, and that we were deceived; so that it does not ward off one blow. Jesus Christ is hid from us, and nothing appears but our sins, and God a consuming fire, that never will forget any of our works; this is called by Peter judgment beginning at the house of God; and if you read on, he calls it suffering according to the will of God.
Now as none can know this chastisement but sons, and as the rod of God is not upon the wicked, it is evident that these are the sufferings of Christ. "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolations abound by Christ." From what has been said, you and I may learn that it is no trifling thing to profess the Gospel. Indeed, my dear reader, we may be called to part with all for Jesus; so that, however we may deceive men, God we cannot deceive; for there is no place, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. So that we do well to look to these things; hence Paul says, "examine yourselves whether you be in the faith," etc.
Having therefore treated a little about the sufferings of Christ take notice, that they abound in us; so that you will have your measure of these things until death; "for by these things men live"; therefore, it is Satan that suggests to you that you are a hypocrite because you get in these sufferings again. I tell you with truth that you cannot go on aright without them.
1. I will now, as the Lord shall assist, come to the second part of our text; and that is, to treat of these consolations, and that they also abound by Christ. Consolation appears to me to be the foundation of all comfort; as for instance, a man may tell you of many troubles that he has; but still, says he, I hope and expect help from this and that friend, and that is a consolation; but when he gets the help, this comforts him much. Now as this consolation is everlasting, according to Paul, attended with a good hope through grace, it must have a firm basis. And depend on it, the basis of this consolation, or the consolation itself, is God's eternal election and choice of us in Christ Jesus: hence the Saviour told His disciples, "rejoice not because the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." So that the more we are led to discover our election, the more our consolations abound by Christ; for He is the first elect, and we were chosen in Him, "according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world."
2. Again, another consolation is this-the oath of God. "God hath sworn by His holiness that He will not lie unto David, his seed will I make to endure forever." Is not this great consolation to us at certain times; surely it is. "For as I have sworn that the waters of Noah shall no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I will not be wroth (in a vindictive way) with thee, nor rebuke thee; the mountains shall depart, and the hills shall be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, nor the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."
3. The promises of God-unconditional promises. These are a great consolation; for, let our case and state be whatever it may, there is an unconditional promise suitable. Various they are; but life is the sum and substance of them all: hence John says, "this is the promise that He hath promised us, eternal life"; and this we had in Christ before the world began, which the Gospel brings to light "life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel," and "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Now these promises are great blessings; great consolations, because so well secured; "for all the promises of God are yea and amen in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God by us"; and we have "the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
4. Another consolation is-the faithfulness of God. What should you and I do, when we get into storms of temptation when our hope is at so low an ebb as that we expect nothing but sudden destruction-if God was not faithful, "who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able?" Why, we should go into black despair and hell at once. Jeremiah said, "his hope was perished from the Lord"; and Job said, "as for my hope who shall see it." These men had sunk very low; but as God is faithful, though He may and does suffer us to sink greatly, yet He will be true to His promise; "for faithful is He that hath promised, who also will do it." And indeed, in these deep sinkings we are led afterwards to discover all this, which fills our hearts with love and gratitude to His blessed Majesty for His superabounding love and grace to us. Yes, and God will visit our sins with a rod, and our iniquities with scourges; that is true, say you, but this is no consolation: yes, there are times that I have found even this a consolation; for when we consider that it is sons that are chastised, for the rod of God is not upon the wicked, and knowing the dreadful lengths we should run if the reins were upon our own neck, these things rightly considered with concern for God's honor, are so sanctified, that we accept the punishment of our iniquity, choose affliction for that time, and say with David, "I know that Thy judgments are right, and that in faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me." Thus God is faithful in preserving us under temptation-in fulfilling His promises to us-and in visiting our sins with a rod-and there is great consolation, at times, in believing that God is a faithful God.
5. Our God is unchangeable. This is another part of our consolation. God's family get so entangled at times in various things, through the sin of their nature, sins against light and love, that they feel themselves exposed to wrath and ruin. This procures a heavy furnace work; and the furnace is so hot, that it appears to them as if it would burn them up altogether; but God says, "when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." And what is the cause we are not burnt up? Why, He says, "I am God, and change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." Jeremiah, he well understood the longsuffering mercy of God, and says, "it is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassion fails not." God wills many changes in us for wise ends, but He never changes in His purposes of grace towards us, "for His gifts and calling are without repentance"; He is "without variableness or the shadow of a turning"; and has declared that He will be true to David and his seed. The Psalmist was sweetly led into this, when he finishes a whole Psalm with "His mercy endureth forever." This is a very great consolation indeed.
6. The wisdom of God. This is another consolation to us. He is infinitely wise, and never can in the least be frustrated in His designs; so that though we are so blind that to save our souls we cannot tell how (certain difficulties which we get into) we shall get out, whether they are in soul or in circumstances, yet the Lord knows, and is not at a loss to bring everything to work for our good, and His own glory; His way is in the sea, and His path in the mighty waters, and His footsteps are not known; but though we may in this walk in the dark, as to any way we know of, yet when the heart is fixed, and the mind stayed on Him-I declare if I have not been so pleased, believing that the Lord knew well how to bring things about, as I cannot describe. His wisdom often appears in working in a way contrary to fleshly reason. Who would ever have thought that Satan had not gained the point, when he caused Christ, and worked in his agents, to put Him to death? Whereas, through death He destroyed him that had the power of death outshot the devil in his own bow, and took the wise in their own craftiness; carrying the counsel of the froward headlong. How wonderfully God worked with respect to the preservation of all the Jews, when Haman concluded their destruction, as you read in the Book of Esther; yes, and that Haman should be hung on the very gallows he had erected for Mordecai! Thus they fall into the pit which they are unwearied in digging for others. This is great consolation.
7. God's covenant. I mean the new covenant; this is a great consolation: for though everything at times to us appears to be in confusion, yet God's covenant stands fast with Christ-confirmed by His oath, and ratified also and established by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ-ordered in all things and sure. A covenant of mercy, which regenerates us-a covenant of life, which quickens us-a covenant of grace, which pardons us-a covenant of peace, which reigns in our hearts-and a covenant of wedlock to unite us to the Lord Jesus. Surely when we feel this, regeneration, life, pardon, peace, and a union to Jesus-this covenant, from which it all flows, is a great consolation. Is it not? David found it so; and therefore says, "He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, this is all my salvation and all my desire"; and for this reason, the language of it being "I will" and "you shall." "I will be their God, and they shall be My people," without any regard to worth or worthiness in them. 0 this endears the Almighty to us. This is the new covenant, and much consolation it affords. Now all these consolations abound by Christ; for take Him away, and all these seven things fall to the ground.
8. The power of God. This is great consolation. 0 how it has rejoiced my soul to think that though Satan's power is so great, yet nothing compared with God's power; for He is almighty-above all. And how high is our nature exalted, insomuch that God the Son in our nature has all these devils at His beck; they are nothing to Him; He curbs them, and forces these proud spirits to truckle to; "we know Thee (say they) who Thou art, the Holy One of God": and He has promised to give us power to tread on serpents, scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt us. Which power we have by virtue of union with Him; and therefore Paul says, "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." And seeing this is the case, what can hurt or harm those which are followers of that which is good? Why nothing possibly can. Strength equal to our day we shall be sure to have, let unbelief say what it will: and though we may conclude that we never can endure to the end under some trials, yet our unbelief shall not make the promise of God of none effect, for "we are kept by the mighty power of God, through faith unto salvation." When the young man, the servant of the Prophet, was terrified at the army that was coming against them, he said, "alas! My master! What shall we do?" And the Prophet said, fear them not, and he prayed to the Lord to open his eyes; and when his eyes were opened, he saw the mountains full of chariots of fire and horses of fire. See what a display of power was put forth to guard one vessel of mercy; and Christ says, "see that ye do not offend one of these little ones that believe in Me; for verily I say unto you, that their angel doth always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven." "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, and gather the lambs with His arms; carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young."
9. The love of God in Christ Jesus. This is great consolation. I know very well that it is hard work to believe that God the Father loves us; but it is a glorious truth; and at times we are led to rejoice in it; for when matters are all clear in conscience, there is a witness felt-peace enjoyed, and no slavish fear-and the Good Spirit sheds abroad this love in the heart. And when this work is done again and again, though we may not be very comfortable as formerly, yet (except under peculiar trials) there is a remembrance, at times, of what we have felt, and that God certainly loves us, which is a great consolation to the soul. "The Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me"; and John says, "we have believed the love that God hath towards us." Paul also says, "that nothing shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Every now and then, after sore conflicts, when the soul is lifted up above its troubles, and enabled to believe that God loves him-that many waters cannot quench the love he then feels-that a threefold cord is not quickly broken-O how this fortifies the soul! And he goeth forth like a giant refreshed with new wine.
10. The pity and compassion of God. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him." See Ephraim after he had gone on frowardly in the way of his own heart, God says, "I have seen his ways; I will heal him, I will lead him also, and restore comfort unto him and to his mourners." And have you not, reader, often provoked the Lord, and expected some sore visitation, but He has met you in pity and compassion; melted you down in the dust under a discovery of your just deserts; and still that He is slow to anger and is of great kindness. "Is Ephraim My dear son, is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; I will surely have mercy on him; My bowels are turned, My repentings are kindled." What language is this for the Almighty! This produces real repentance; and depend upon it, that if the Lord did not look upon us first; I mean all our journey through, we never should in heart turn to Him; such is the desperate hardness of our hearts. It was after Ephraim was turned, that He repented; a soft word breaks the bone, and then down we go in the dust before the Lord; all of which are the blessed effects of His pity and compassion. But nothing of this can ever come to us, but in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Having showed ten things in which the perfections of God are all engaged towards the family of God, and which is great consolation to them, we will now speak also of some of the office characters of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that God's children are brought into numberless straits and difficulties in order that they should make use of and prove the Lord Jesus in all His office characters. This is really the case.
1. Then He is a Prophet; and therefore we shall ever be taught by the Good Spirit our ignorance all our pilgrimage. I feel it this night in writing; but if the Lord Jesus is with us, He teaches us, as He did the disciples going to Emmaus, "then opened He their understanding to understand the Scriptures, and expounded to them," etc. And the disciples often asked Him the meaning of this and that parable, and He always told them; but you and I have so much wisdom, that we sit down to read as if we knew everything; and we wonder how it is that we are forced to read a page over and over, and then shut up the book, I say, it is often our proud independent spirits; but the best place is where Mary was, she sat at His feet, and received of His words. I have found this at times in writing, going at it in this self-sufficient way, and shortly forced to leave off, barren enough. James says, "if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God"; say you, I do, and do not succeed. I answer, you do not lack it. It is not so easy as you may think. I am sure if you lacked it, God would be true to His Word; for He giveth to all men (that are fools, and feel it) liberally, and upbraideth not"; hence Paul says, "if any man will be wise, let him become a fool." Such need the Lord Jesus as a Prophet to teach them, and this is to them great consolation.
2. Another of His characters is that of a Priest. Now as a priest was to offer sacrifices under the Law, so our Lord Jesus offered up Himself, body and soul, a sacrifice to God for us; and we shall need Him in His office character as a Priest all our journey through; He has made an atonement for our sins, and His blood cleanseth from all sin. Now if you feel as I do, I need daily a manifestation of this to my conscience; for I feel sin in all I do, and His blood alone, the blood of this High Priest is to cleanse us; so that we cannot go on without Him here; and we are told to consider Him, "wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession." But what are we to consider? Why, that He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; "for He was tempted in all points like unto us, yet without sin"; so that He can succor the tempted-Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sickness; and we are to consider that as it was under the Law, when the leper came before the priest, all over in one mass of corruption, the high priest was to pronounce such clean; so it is with the sinner that is led to Jesus all over sin and guilt, like the publican or Mary Magdalen, He pronounces such clean, "now ye are clean through the Word that I have spoken unto you; abide in Me." But here lays the difference with the high priest under the Law, it was a ceremonial cleansing, and only went to outward things; but our High Priest is pleased to cleanse the conscience, "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." Lastly, consider that His blood cleanseth (in the present tense), it is not to cleanse us at first only, but to keep us clean; and if you feel as I do, I need it every day; for the dreadful corruptions of my heart work continually, and often make me feel as Paul did, when he cried out, "0 wretched man that I am!" And again, "bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members." Oh this corrupt nature! But he says, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord"; for "there is a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." (Zech. 13:1) Thus considering the Lord Jesus as our High Priest, is great consolation at times.
3. He is our King. He is King over all devils-King over all nations in the world-King of kings and Lord of lords-King of Zion-and King of glory in the highest heavens. Then He is King of Zion, and requires service in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter-that we take up our cross, and daily follow Him-worship Him, love Him, obey His Laws-truth, faith, liberty, and love-rejecting all other lovers; "if any man serve Me, him will My Father honor." And this is our consolation, that He has all power in heaven and on earth; consequently, He will preserve and keep us till at last He will bring us home to Himself, "for He hath made us kings and priests unto God, and we shall reign forever and ever." "For the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever and ever." O that He may sway His scepter in our hearts, and reign to the eternal destruction of Satan, sin, and death! "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; for behold thy King cometh; He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass." (Zech. 9:9) Thus, then if He is our Prophet, we shall feel our ignorance continually, and apply to Him. As a Priest, we need His blood continually to cleanse us. And as a King, we shall feel our need of Him to subdue our corruptions; and to destroy Satan's power again and again, as we go on in the divine life, in all its branches.
4. He is our Surety. Here He stood in our Law place, was made under the Law, responsible for us; He took the whole debt upon Himself that we had contracted. Sins are called debts; hence we are told to pray, "forgive us our debts"; He discharged the whole in His active and passive obedience-obeyed every command God gave, and said, "I have finished the work which Thou gayest Me to do." After this He suffered on the Cross, and with His dying breath said, "it is finished!" The first was active, and the last passive, so that He finished both; but though you may have seen Him by faith as your Surety, and rejoiced in Him, yet all the time you have an old man in you-devils to tempt you-and a wicked world to encounter with, which will be till death. You will need this view of Him again and again continually; for you never can rest in any attainments; and thus you and I will be terribly harassed by Satan whether or not that He is our Surety. Sin is such a powerful thing that it will worry and torment you; but when by faith you can believe that He canceled your debt, this and nothing short of it can fully satisfy you-at least it does for me. "He that becomes a surety must smart for it"; and Jesus did smart. "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him." He is the Surety of the better testament, and that is the new covenant. David in one place says, "enter not into judgment with Thy servant," etc., and in another, "be surety for Thy servant for good." O what consolation is this to those that know the powerful workings of sin, Satan, and death.
5. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Advocate. An advocate is to silence all accusers; and now suppose that you was in a pardoned and justified state, so as at once to be set out of the reach of all accusers never to trouble you more, of what use would this covenant character of the Lord Jesus be to you, and how could you live upon Him as your Advocate. Yes, say you, He did this for me thirty years ago; yes, but I need Him as my Advocate continually; for I feel my enemies are not annihilated; as the poet says:
"If Thou, celestial Dove!
Thine influence withdraw;
What easy victims soon we fall
To conscience, wrath, and Law."
So I find it, for as fast as we slacken to the Lord Jesus, our enemies are treading close upon our heels. It is true, I never expected it was such a path; but I find it is; yes, and the only way too, to live upon the Lord Jesus Christ. But young believers have no idea of this. Satan is called the accuser of the brethren, which accuseth them before God day and night. Moses is an accuser in his Law, "you have one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust." The world and conscience will accuse us; hence John speaks of our hearts condemning us. But what will silence all these accusers, for we shall feel them all at times. I answer, with John, "that if any man sin (through weakness and temptation, but not presumptuously), we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins"; and sooner or later we shall feel the blessed Spirit's witness within, which will bear witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God. You may see this very clear in the woman that they brought to Christ; say they, she was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the Law commanded that such should be stoned; but what sayest Thou? He appeared at first to take no notice; but afterwards He appeared as her Advocate; and said, "let him that is without fault cast the first stone at her"; and then set their consciences at work, and they went out, and the woman was left alone. Then said Jesus, "woman, where are thine accusers-hath no man condemned thee? She says, no man, Lord! Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more." Thus she found the Lord Jesus to be her Advocate! And He silenced every accuser she had; but you and I shall feel these accusers more or less all out days, in order that we may prove the Lord Jesus as our Advocate, which is great consolation.
6. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Mediator. Did you never feel deeply impressed with the Divine perfections of God? Such as His righteousness, justice, holiness, immutability, and terrible majesty which has so laid open all your ways, works, and actions; insomuch that you have expected nothing but to be consumed. Now what would have become of you, do you think, if the Lord Jesus was not your Mediator? Surely the sentence would have been fully executed upon you. This you may clearly see in the Book of Exodus, when God gave the Law to the children of Israel; they came to blackness, darkness, tempests, the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake; and if a beast touched the mountain it was to be stoned or thrust through with a dart. Now this so terrified them that they said to Moses, "do thou speak unto us, and let not God speak unto us, lest we die." Moses you know, was a mediator, and stood in the gap, as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, God approved of what they said of Moses speaking to them, and said, they have well spoken: and we find after all this that they would have been consumed again and again, had not Moses stood in the gap. And how often have you and I been terrified again and again at the sight of the terrible majesty of God, when fresh contracted guilt and sin have been discovered; truth we have expected sudden destruction; yes, say you, but after this I have felt all clear and all straight, peace has been enjoyed, rest and quietness; and do you know the cause? It is the Lord Jesus standing in the gap; He has made up the breach and all this is to let you know the real worth of Him as your Mediator; hence Paul says, "there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus." So that you need not wonder if you have these terrible feelings and sinkings of soul again and again; for it is to keep you sensible what a heinous thing sin is, and that you may highly prize the Lord Jesus Christ in His office character as your Mediator. Is not this then a very great consolation indeed; truly it is. I have traveled this path myself.
7. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Intercessor. This is another of His office characters. Now this takes in the whole work finished upon the Cross in a peculiar way; for when the work was completed, He arose from the dead and ascended up to glory-seated at the right hand of the Father, as our living Intercessor. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather that is risen again; who also maketh intercession for us." Not that I understand in the least that the Lord Jesus stands in glory praying to His Father to have mercy upon us; no, but He stands or sits in glory as our living Intercessor; the work He has completed is ever in view-plainly seen; and the Father looks upon us through Him, He being our Intercessor. It is in and through Him that all our confessions for sin, petitions for mercy, and thanksgivings for favors received go up to God the Father with all our praises, blessings, and adoration in every branch of real worship; and it is in and through Him that all pardon, peace, justification, with every blessing of the everlasting covenant, comes down in the richest enjoyment into our souls. Take away the Lord Jesus, and nothing of this can go on. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us"; so that no sin that is mixed with our holy things can go up to God the Father, because everything must go up through Him. Did you never take notice in the Revelation of John of these words? "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne; and the smoke of the incense which was with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God, out of the angel's hand." Now it appears to me, that these prayers were put up against the enemies of these saints, and the answer came as you read in the next verse; "for the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and cast it into the earth, and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake." (Rev. 8:3-5) Take notice of the golden altar, for it is the Godhead of our Lord Jesus; had He not been God over all, He never could have engaged in such a great work; and had He not have been man, He never could have suffered; this was the altar that sanctified the gift, which was His human nature, body, and soul, and it is only in and through Him (as before observed) that prayers, etc., goes up to the Father. Now is not this a great consolation; and is not our text true, that our consolations abound by Christ.
8. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Counselor; hence the Prophet Isaiah tells us, that "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace." He may well be called the Wonderful Counselor, being infinite in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; yea, He is wisdom itself-knowledge itself-and understanding also; so that all wise counsel comes from Him, whether natural or spiritual, as the fountain head, and all (whether they know it or not) are entirely indebted to Him; "it is He that leadeth counselors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools"; and though men acting under Satan's influence may take crafty counsel against God's hidden ones, yet the prayer of faith to this Wonderful Counselor will upset the whole; hence David prays, "0 Lord! Turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness"; and He answered David's prayer, so that this wise counselor was rejected, and went and hanged himself. Kings in former days used to have seven counselors, as recorded in the Book of Ezra; and they lived in desolate places job tells us; I suppose to be as much as possible alone, to accumulate all the wisdom they could. But what is all this compared with this Wonderful Counselor, seeing it is He, as before observed, that supplies them all, either as the God of nature, or as the God of grace. And these kings always called in their counselors, and advised with them; for as Solomon says, "in the multitude of counselors there is safety." And what should you and I do, Christian reader, if we had not such a Counselor to go to-our enemies are wise. You read of the wisdom of the world, the wisdom of the serpent or the devil, and the wisdom of the flesh-all of which is put in force against Christ and the Church; but though these have labored hard now for near six thousand years, yet to this day their labor has been all in vain against the Lord Jesus and His family, for He is the Wonderful Counselor; "take counsel, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand, for God is with us." This is the Mighty God, the Wonderful Counselor! And what is His counsel to you and me, for we do well to attend to it, seeing that all other is of little worth; then He says many things. I will attend at present to a few that will comprise the whole.
1st, Then "search the Scriptures, for they testify of Me." Then this takes in all His revealed will; and "wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto, according to Thy Word." But then the Word alone is insufficient; and therefore He has promised that His Spirit shall guide us into all truth; and there is no difficulty in providence-no knotty experience-no violent attack from Satan-no fiery trial, however strange it appears to us-no cruel, cunning, crafty enemy that we may have, but what we may overcome by simple prayer to this Wonderful Counselor, and consulting His Word in obedience to Him, who, as before observed, tells us to search the Scriptures. David, a man after God's heart, went this way to work: hence he says, "Thy testimonies have I taken to be my delight and my counselors"; read carefully the 19th Psalm, and many other parts of the Psalms; this 119th also that I have quoted is full of it. This is the best way in all difficulties; better than running to this and that friend for advice, "trust ye not in a friend"; and though the answer may be delayed, yet "though the vision tarry, wait for it; for in due time it will speak and will not lie-the just shall live by faith-and they shall not be ashamed that wait for Him." Mordecai went to this Counselor, and succeeded, as you read in the Book of Esther, against all the cunning and craft of wicked Haman. Daniel and his three friends went in opposition to all the wise men and astrologers; and desired mercies of the God of heaven, concerning this secret.
Now there are three things that this Wonderful Counselor advises to, and they are of the greatest importance; for if you and I never are led by His Spirit to take the counsel He here gives, we shall perish to all eternity. You will find it in the Revelation of John 3:18, it is this Counselor that is there speaking, "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see." Now let us see what is here meant, and the state of those that reject the counsel of God against themselves; then observe, the gold is faith, but all faith is not saving faith, it must be bought of Christ, and the price is parting with everything belonging to the flesh, that He calls for, and that makes it a tried faith; hence Peter says, "that the trial of your faith being much more precious than gold that perisheth," etc. But, say you, is this buying it the real value of it? By no means; no-in this sense it is a free gift, no price can be put on it, "faith is the gift of God." But you cannot have it, and hold this world too; and is this saving? Yes, "he that believeth shall be saved"; but on the contrary, "he that believeth not shall be damned." Again, "white raiment that thou mayest be clothed"; what is that? I answer-the perfect, spotless righteousness of this Wonderful Counselor imputed to us; hence you read "the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready; and to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (Rev. 19:7-8) "Friend, how tamest thou in hither, not having on a wedding garment? And he was speechless"; then Christ ordered them to "bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." "If so be that being clothed, we shall not be found naked"; but "hell is naked before Him, and destruction has no covering." Lastly, "and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see"; this is the unction of God's Spirit, and without it we can neither see nor feel our need of these blessings that the Lord Jesus counsels us to buy; hence John says, "ye have an unction from the Holy One"; that is, this Counselor-the devils confessed that He was the Holy One of God-and says John, "Ye know all things"; that is, all things that are essential to salvation; but "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His"; then he must belong to the devil, for there are but two seeds in all the world. Now is not this a great consolation to have a Wonderful Counselor to go to at all times and upon all occasions? Truly it is, beyond all expression!
9. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Reconciler, or Reconciliation. This is another of His office characters. When Adam came out of his Maker's hands, we are told that he was upright, "God made man upright"; and what is an upright man? The same penman tells us; hence he says, "the upright love Thee." How long he stood is not for us to determine, but it appears to have been but a short time; for as we read in Psalm 49:12: "Man being in honor abideth not," etc. Now then Satan threw him down and all us in him, and this love went from him, and a principle of enmity was fixed in his nature when fallen, so that everyone ever after that proceedeth from this corrupt fountain, they all come into this world haters of God to a man, elect and reprobate; but God the Father having before the fall loved the elect with everlasting love, preserved them from the dreadful consequences of it, and does preserve them; hence Jude says, "preserved in Jesus Christ," etc. But how is God and them to come together? "For the carnal mind of them all (and they have nothing else by nature) is enmity against Him?" Why, here steps forth the Lord Jesus Christ as our Reconciler, "to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the (elect) world to Himself'; and again, "when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son." (Rom. 5:10) Thus, by His death, He removed every obstacle out of our way, in that He satisfied Divine justice, and magnified the Holy Law; so that "mercy and truth met together, righteousness and peace kissed each other" in Him, and perfect reconciliation took place. But all this may be well understood in the letter of the Word; and many there are that can talk much about the fall of man; but God's family go further than this, for they are brought to feel this more or less, that they may be taught experimentally that they are enemies. This teaching by the Good Spirit terrifies them; for though some of God's family have perhaps professed the truth of this for years, yet when they come to feel it, it is quite a different thing. But who can truly know the real worth of the Lord Jesus as a Reconciler, but those that feel the enmity of their hearts-and this enmity is not slain; for let the Lord favor you and me ever so much, so that we feel a strong love to Him and to His family, His truth and His ways; yes, and walk sometime in the sweet enjoyment of this love, and conclude with Job, that we "shall die in our nest"; yet if He hides His face and lays on the rod, and it comes heavier and heavier still, let Satan loose upon us, and cross us in all our pursuits-we sometimes feel the enmity of our hearts as strong, if not stronger than ever; and if you say no, I say you differ greatly from me, and also from Bible saints; see Jonah, Jeremiah, Moses, and others. I know that Mr. Huntington now in glory, used to say it was slain, but he only meant subdued; for if he was alive he would not contradict what I have asserted; besides if it really was slain and an end to it, whence arises these feelings which they find in a peculiar way that go into deep waters, and have to bear the burden and heat of the day. And why, say you, are we suffered to feel so much of this after we have felt reconciliation? I answer, that it is to keep us sensible of our base original, and that we may ever prize the Lord Jesus Christ all our days as our Reconciler, which if not kept up this way we should be like Israel of old, upon another occasion, soon forget His works. No believer of any standing can contradict this, with truth on his side: then is not this also a great consolation, that Jesus Christ reconciles us to God; and we feel it so, again and again, when the trial is over-all appears clear and straight-we justify God in all His dealings towards us, however adverse-love Him, His family, His truth, and His ways.
10. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Shepherd. This I shall take up two ways. 1st, Temporally; 2nd, Spiritually.
1. Then let us consider that the Lord Jesus is our Shepherd in a temporal sense. The allusion is to a shepherd literally feeding his flock; we are called sheep, and Christ the Good Shepherd. All temporal supplies are under His management, as you read, "Thou hast put all things under His feet, all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea; and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas." (Psa. 8:6-8) Yes, and He says, "for every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof.' (Ps. 50:10-12) Yes, and the silver and gold are His, and all hearts are in His hand, and He turns them as He pleases; it is He that giveth power to get wealth, He maketh poor and rich, He setteth up one and putteth down another, and "promotion cometh not from the east nor from the west." Now many of God's children are brought into great straits, to lead them to watch the hand and handy works of the Good Shepherd in a temporal sense; and cross upon cross, trial upon trial, shall come on, to teach them where their temporal supplies come from, even from this Good Shepherd, who is the Heir of all things. It is true, we may say that the Lord Jesus provides for all, and we speak the truth; but, alas! How different is it when we get into these trials, we then cry to Him at times from the heart to direct our every step in providence, to open a door for us to get employ, to open the heart of this and that friend that has got this world's goods; and if He is pleased to appear, we do at times (when He favors us with a grateful heart, but not else) so bless and thank Him, that what the world despises (many of them), is cordially and thankfully received, and we do sincerely pray that the instruments may never know the want of what the Lord Jesus has disposed their hearts to do. I know what I am writing about; and such do not go on presumptuously, but very cautiously, exercised with numberless fears, often and very often concluding that they are doing wrong in every step they take; though none pray more than such do to this Good Shepherd to go before them, and not to suffer them to go too fast or too slow, and this they do in all their movements; for they know that the bounds of their habitation is fixed-the hairs of their head numbered-and that when He putteth His own sheep forth He goeth before them, as He did before the Israelites, feeding them with manna for forty years together. It was He that sent the ravens with bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening to the Prophet, and he drank of the brook; and when the brook dried up, He commanded him to go to the widow woman. David declared that he never saw "the righteous forsaken, nor His seed begging bread." Moses says, "where is there a nation and where is there a people that hath a God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is to us in all things that we call upon Him for." He sent out His disciples, without purse or scrip, and told them "that the workman was worthy of his hire"; and when they came back, He asked them, if they lacked anything? And they said, "no, Lord! Nothing." Yes, and we read that this Good Shepherd condescended to cook for them also, as you may see in the 21st chapter of John, at the sea of Tiberias-"as soon as they were come to land they saw a fire, and fish laid thereon and bread; Jesus said unto them, come and dine. Jesus then cometh and taketh bread, and giveth them and fish likewise," (ver. 9,12,13) and He is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." This is great consolation to the poor tried family of God.
But 2nd, The Good Shepherd feeds His flock spiritually. To this agrees the Prophet Isaiah, "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, and gather the lambs in His arms," etc., and He says by the Prophet Zechariah, "I will feed you, 0 poor of the flock; and I took to Me two staves, the one I called Beauty, and the other Bands, and I fed the flock."
Now let us briefly consider some of their food. Then observe, He says Himself, "I am the bread of life; he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me." "My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood drink indeed; he that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, bath everlasting life," Say you, I long to come to this; and if you ever do feel an appetite you certainly shall; "blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Now if nothing under heaven short of these things will satisfy you, you have got life; and in His own time He will fulfill His own promise, who has said that "He will abundantly bless Zion's provision, and satisfy her poor with Himself, the living bread, that came down from heaven"; but you will say I have waited long, and seem as far off as ever. "Delays (says Boston) are not denials-His time is the best"-do you watch and wait at wisdom's gates; and He says, "they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me." Besides it is His usual way; see how long it was that Abraham waited for a son, Hannah for a child, David for the throne; and yet they did not wait in vain.
Now I might mention many things that feed us; but this Good Shepherd is the sum and substance of everything-He it is that feeds us, and He is the food-for if we come to Mount Zion, to the feast of fat things full of marrow and fatness, of wines on the lees well refined-all this is the Lord Jesus Christ; hence Paul says, "Christ our passover was sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast." He was the fatted calf that fed the prodigal; and if we are fed with knowledge and understanding-it is life eternal to know Him; and He says, "I am wisdom, I am understanding."
Sometimes it is food for the soul to triumph over every enemy, which at times he does by a living faith "over serpents, scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy"; as you read, "Thou breakest the head of leviathan in pieces, and gayest him to be meat for the people inhabiting the wilderness"; but if the Lord Jesus had not by death destroyed him that had the power of death, we never could have had this food.
Again, both the Word of promise, and the sweet enjoyment of the promise, is food to a child of God. "My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb which is sweet to thy taste: so shall the knowledge of wisdom be to thy soul when thou hast found it," etc. (Prov. 24:13-14) Now by the honeycomb, I understand the Word of promise; and by the honey, the comfort of the promise in the fulfillment of it: but this Good Shepherd is the whole and sole cause both of the honeycomb and the honey; for every promise is yea and amen in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is the honeycomb; and the Church prays to her Beloved to "comfort her with apples, for she was sick of love"; yes, say you, but apples are not honey-very true; but I know it was the comfort of the promise that she wanted, and this only is sweet food. David brings it in as follows, "the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether; more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb: moreover, by them is Thy servant warned, and in keeping them is great reward." And what can be more sweet to a soul than to know that he has the fear of God; and to walk in His statutes and judgments to do them; both of which are promised and both fulfilled in the experience of the saints, as you may see in Zachariah and Elizabeth, who walked in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless; so that the Word of promise-the comfort of the promise (for we are to suck and be satisfied with the breasts of Zion's consolations)-the fear of the Lord, and walking in His statutes and judgments-are all sweet food to a child of God, and it all comes from this Good Shepherd. It is His Word; "My Word is spirit, My Word is life"; and comfort comes from His Word, bringing life to the soul, "this is my comfort in my affliction, Thy Word hath quickened me." The affliction will not terminate in death; "for though Thou hast chastened me sore, Thou hast not given me over unto death; I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of God."
The fear and judgment also which arises from the Spirit of Christ, called the spirit of the fear of the Lord, that was upon Him, tends to holy obedience; "for let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." Thus this Good Shepherd feeds His flock both spiritually and temporally, which is great consolation to the soul.
Lastly, The Lord Jesus Christ is the Great Physician; which must of necessity be taken up the same way-both for soul and body. Now all sickness that comes on the soul arises from sin, and nothing else; hence you read that in the heavenly Jerusalem above, "the inhabitants shall not say, I am sick"; but why not? Because the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity, but it is His blood that "cleanseth from all sin"; hence David prays, "that Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations"; and Christ says, "I am the way," etc. Now you and I will need this Good Physician all our days; for every day we live, we sin-in thought, word, and deed; so that we need Him continually to feed us, and continually to heal us, "heal Thou me, and I shall be healed; for Thou art my praise." "I will (says this Good Physician), bring it health and cure; and I will cure them, and reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth."
But He is also the Physician of the body. I know this is not well received by many, but I know that all others are only tools that He uses. The centurion that came to our Lord about his servant was heartily of my mind; hence he says, "I am a man of authority, having soldiers under me; and I say to this one go, and he goeth; to another come, and he cometh; and to my servant, do this, and he doeth it; (and as Thou art the Great Physician, all disorders and diseases, etc., are the same to Thee) speak the word, and my servant shall be healed." The poor woman after she had spent all her money upon other physicians, and got worse and worse, then went and got cured by our Lord. But we are naturally bent to look for help where it is not to be found, and to reject the only way in which it is. I do not mean that we are to reject all means-no, but reject trusting in them: for the Lord often works by means; hence we read "that He made clay of the spittle (when He spat on the ground), and anointed the man's eyes." Now what a consolation this is that Jesus takes care of both soul and body; the numbers of cures that He performed in the days of His flesh-the palsy, fever, lepers, woman with the bloody issue, child with convulsion fits or possessed with the devil, mad people, deaf, dumb, blind; in short, all manner of diseases; and He is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." These things to us are great consolations indeed.
I might greatly enlarge in showing that He is our Guide; for we cannot go one step aright whether in spiritual or temporal things without Him; hence He says, "without Me ye can do nothing"; and the Father declares, "that He shall be a Leader and Commander to the people"; that He is our Bridegroom, and the Church is His wife-that He is the Elder Brother-that He is our only true Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. But I forbear; and now to sum up the whole upon this head-if He is our Prophet, Priest, King, Surety, Advocate, Mediator, Intercessor, Rock, Counselor, Reconciler, Physician, Shepherd, Righteousness, Guide, Bridegroom, Brother, Friend, etc., I say, if He is all these things, and ten thousand times more, may it not with propriety and truth be said, that when numbers were waiting, looking out and expecting the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, that they were waiting for the consolation of Israel? It really may.
I will now, in the last place, treat of the consolations of the Good Spirit of Christ, and show that they also abound by Christ. I believe the Holy Ghost is a Divine Person in God, coequal and coeternal with God the Father and God the Son; and I am sure that we are indebted also to this Divine Person for all the comfort and consolation which flows from God the Father, through Christ the Mediator, under the sweet anointing unctuous influence of the Holy Ghost. These are grand and glorious truths; hence the Apostle Paul says, when writing to the Church of God at Phillipi, "if there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy;" (Phil. 2:1-2) by all which you may clearly see how he ties all up together, the consolation that is in Christ, with the fellowship of the Spirit, and a union to and with all the saints. It is not all the consolation that is in Christ that is of the least use to us, feelingly, without this Holy and Blessed Spirit, which every convinced sinner well knows, and so does every poor tempted and tried soul. You may try to be like Barnabas, a son of consolation to them, and you do right in so doing, but, alas! It will be all in vain without the Blessed and Holy Spirit of all grace and truth; it is He that testifies of Christ, "He shall testify of Me": it is He that takes of the things of Jesus and shows them to us, consequently He leads our minds into all those office characters that I have been treating about; He glorifies Jesus in our hearts and affections, enables us to speak about what He has done for us to His family, and to the shame and confusion of every foe-"It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you"; and enables us to stop their mouths as Stephen did, "for they could not resist the Spirit by which he spake." Beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And it is hard work for a man to fight against God's Spirit, His Word, and our conscience; but they do to their destruction. He it is that comforts us, "I will send you another Comforter, that shall abide with you forever"; and He leads us up to God's election and choice of us in Christ Jesus, sheds the Father's love abroad in our hearts, and gives us an assured hope, which is called everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace; shows us the new covenant, and our interest in all the blessings that flow from the sufferings and death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; enables us to trace Him from glory into this lower world, His incarnation for us, His obedience to the Law for us, His cruel treatment for us, His being apprehended and taken for us, His being condemned for us, His death for us, His resurrection for us, and His ascension to everlasting glory as our Head and Representative. For if He did not thus reveal Christ, you and I could never come at it with an application, and therefore He is said to be "the Spirit of revelation and understanding in the knowledge of Christ." Now take notice, are we quickened to feel our need of Christ? "It is the Spirit that quickeneth"; are we enlightened to see our sin, the spirituality of the Law, Christ as the only Saviour, and our interest in Him? He is the Spirit of illumination, "He shall shew you things to come," and so He does, and this makes us not put far away the evil day as everyone else is sure to do. Again, are we pardoned? He it is that cleanses us, for He is the Spirit of faith, and He leads us to Jesus, and by faith we "behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," and we believe that we are forgiven all trespasses. He regenerates us; the new man is the workmanship of this Blessed Spirit; hence Christ says, "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." So that there is a grace to oppose every corruption in the human heart, which constitutes a war till death. Are we justified by faith in the perfect righteousness of Jesus? This is done in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Is the Lord Jesus made of God to us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption? It is the Spirit of God that lets us know all this, and much more; and therefore if He is our Wisdom, the Good Spirit first shows us that we are fools-"if any man will be wise, let him become a fool," etc. Thus the Spirit of God bloweth upon the goodliness of man, and it all withers away. And if He is our Righteousness, the Good Spirit shows us that we are naked before God, and need this Righteousness-"He shall convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." If He is our Sanctification, the Good Spirit discovers to us that we are unholy, and then shows us that "we are complete in Him." All this lays in those words before mentioned, "He shall testify of Me"; which indeed takes in all of Christ, from first to last, and is very copious. And if He is our Redemption, the Good Spirit shows us that we are by nature in a state of captivity, under the reigning power of Satan, sin, and death; and it is the light and life that we have from Him, that makes us see and feel these chains, which in His own time we are brought from under; "for Zion shall be redeemed with judgment," etc. Therefore He shows us the victories of Christ on the Cross; and by this faith that is of the operation of the Spirit, we are liberated; this is the liberty of the Spirit, "for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." But, oh, the sore conflicts that God's children have with the inbred corruptions of their hearts from day to day! Which bows them down, and occasions them many a painful hour; and I am sure that we are indebted to this Blessed Spirit at such times for helping our infirmities. Unbelief, ignorance, and carnal reason, are some of our infirmities, as well as a legal spirit; but He is pleased to remove them out of the way, and encourage us to come again, vile as we are, to the footstool of sovereign mercy, pleading the promises; when He is pleased to bring suitable promises, and embolden us to wrestle hard with the Lord to fulfill His own Word; which if He did not, you and I must sink in black despair, so heinous are our sins against light, knowledge, the mercy and love of God. No soul can tell how alarming, how terrifying, how dreadful, and what slavish fear we feel at the discoveries and workings of our evil heart, in thoughts and words, even when it does not come to actions. Now all these things that the Blessed Spirit continually does for us, are very great consolations.
Furthermore, when we get into the temptations of Satan, what could you and I do against him, he comes as an accuser, condemns us, goes about like a roaring lion, works in all the lusts and corruptions of our nature, and sets it all on fire, comes with a storm. Hence you read, "the blast of the terrible ones come as a storm against the wall; Thou hast been a strength to the poor," etc. But how is this strength communicated? Paul tells us, "strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man." Again, he is said to come in like a flood, to deluge us altogether, and drown us in despair. I have found such dreadful sinkings, bordering on despair, that I have expected, as David says, "that the water flood would overflow me, that the deep would swallow me up, and that the pit would shut her mouth upon me." And what is the cause it was not so? The Prophet tells us, that "when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." This standard is the Lord Jesus Christ, as the same Prophet tells us, "in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek, and His rest shall be glorious." And how precious it is after such storms, such floods, and dreadful overwhelming sorrows and sinkings of soul, once more to have a hope, a believing view of the Lord Jesus, and the victory that He obtained on the Cross. Yes, fellow sufferer, these things are beyond all expression, it is like a resurrection from the dead, and fills our hearts with love to the Lord Jesus for the blessed finished work that He has accomplished; "who through His death destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil"; so that we have to fight against conquered enemies-David calls them his deadly enemies.
There is one grand thing that Paul speaks of, and it has just come to my mind, and that is the Christian's armor. "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace: above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." (Eph. 6:11-18) Now we do well to attend particularly to this heavenly armor, for we are called to a great fight, yes, "against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Then let us attend briefly to every part of this armor, and in the next place we will show that Christ is the sum and substance of it all, and that the Holy Spirit is engaged in the work.
1. Then "the loins are to be girt about with truth." Peter explains this, and tells us that truth must be in the mind, in that he says, "girt up the loins of your mind"; and this is very needful, namely, to have the mind well stored with experimental truth arising out of our hearts, to be ready in the Scriptures, and in experience also, for both must go together; and if heretics and hypocrites get hold of us we shall be helped in this way to attack them, but not else; therefore do not despise knowledge, only see that you have experience also. But this truth is Christ Jesus, "I am the way, the truth"; and the Good Spirit is to guide us into all truth, for it is He that prepares the heart, and creates the fruit of the lip: "it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you." See Stephen, how well he was equipped with this part of the armor, so that they could not resist the Spirit by which he spake. But if we have the truth, yet if this Holy Spirit does not in the time of need create the fruit of the lip, you and I cannot stand against error so as to come off victorious. See the Apostles standing against the rulers; the blind man also that they cast out, as you read in the 9th of John. All this was the Holy Spirit's work. "Girt up the loins of your mind"; this is a great consolation. It is a valuable thing for a Christian to have sound experience and wisdom in God's Word, to know the treasure God has given him. Hence Solomon says, "get wisdom (that is, being made wise to salvation), and with all thy getting get understanding, having your loins girt about with truth."
2. "Having on the breastplate of righteousness." This is to guard the heart from Satan and his allies, law, and conscience; and you will need this in a storm-dreadful sinkings of soul will try this-"when the blast of the terrible ones come as a storm against the wall," when terrible passages of Scripture are leveled at you, and your hope appears to be giving up the ghost. Now this part of the armor is the perfect righteousness of Jehovah Jesus, which He wrought out in the days of His flesh, and it is imputed to us by faith; but the Good Spirit it is that produces this faith; hence Paul says, "we having received the same Spirit of faith," etc., and the righteousness of Christ is to and upon all that believe. Is not this great consolation to have such a righteousness as this in Christ Jesus, and faith by the Spirit of God to lay fast hold of it to guard the heart? Truly it is.
3. The feet are to be "shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace." And here I wish to be very particular; what then are the feet of the soul? I answer, faith and love; hence Paul says, "we walk by faith, not by sight," and "walk in love as Christ also hath loved us," etc. Now you and I may have these feet; but then, if they are not shod as Paul speaks, we shall find the road exceeding rough, for we shall cast away our confidence continually, and get cold in our affections: why? Because our feet are far from being shod, as the Apostle here speaks; for he does not say that our feet are to be shod with peace, no: what, then, say you? I answer, "with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace." And what, then, are we to understand by this? Why, peace comes to us-what from? The Gospel. What is the cause of the Gospel? The sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus Christ; "He made peace by the blood of His Cross." But why did He undertake such a work? To ransom us from sin, Satan, death, and hell. Why us? The Father's choice; and therefore the glorious Trinity entered into covenant before the world was made, in behalf of the elect, and therefore it is called a Covenant of Peace; "the counsel of peace was between them both"; and the Good Spirit engaged to reveal every blessing of this covenant to our hearts. This was the preparation; and further back you cannot go. Now when by that faith which works by love, you can believe that the peace you feel is the fruit and effect of your election, and that you are a son of peace, interested in the covenant, then your feet are shod with this preparation, and not till then; and by various trials, after a while, you will get established, so that you will not so soon give all up for lost as formerly you did; "after you have suffered awhile, stablish, strengthen, settle you." See Paul with this preparation of the Gospel of Peace upon his feet; "for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:38-39) The love of God in Christ Jesus was from all eternity. Here was the preparation, and therefore Paul having this rich experience, wishes all believers to have their feet thus shod. How cheerfully do you and I take up the cross, and endure hardness, when our feet are shod with this preparation. See David against Goliath, and many others in God's Word: but as we were chosen in Christ, and He is expressly called by Isaiah, the Covenant, this part of the armor also is Christ, and it is the Spirit of God that strengthens our faith, and sheds the Father's love abroad in our hearts, or we never could put these shoes on. 0 what great consolation arises here! Namely, that all Satan's power, which is great, can never overcome us; united to Jesus, and loved with an everlasting love-"having your feet shod," etc.
4. "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." Some good men have said that the shield of faith is faith, but I really do not see it so; and for several reasons. A man may have strong faith in the fall of man, and discover the awful corruptions of his own heart, the terrible majesty, holiness, righteousness, and justice of God, and be under sore temptations, yea, afraid that what he feels will come out of his mouth, yes, and this shall go on for some time; but though the man has real faith, yet he is far enough by this faith from quenching the fiery darts of the wicked: and you must take notice also, that a believer has but one faith from first to last, the faith never differs, but the objects of it do. Hence Paul says, "there is one faith," etc. But whatever this shield is, it is this that is used to quench these fiery darts.
But again, if Paul understood it to be faith, why should he say, "above all, take faith," if he intended this to be the shield. Is it to be supposed that faith is greater than all the other parts of the armor? Greater than truth, righteousness, the counsel held by the Father and Son in eternity, called the preparation of the Gospel of Peace greater than the hope of salvation-greater than the sword of the Spirit, and all prayer-yes, say you, because it is faith that brings all these things in, and therefore it is the greatest. Well, but what does the same Apostle say when writing to the Corinthians, "and now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity, for that never faileth." And when Paul was under the sweet influence of it, he declared, that he was ready to die at Jerusalem, for the sake of the Lord Jesus; for, says he, "the love of Christ constraineth me." Now would you not rather have thought that he would have said, according to feeling experience, "above all, taking the shield of love"; admitting him, as you say, to believe that faith is the shield. But again, if he intended by what he says, faith, he would have said, "above all, taking the shield faith"; but he says, "above all, taking the shield of faith."
Having showed that he does not mean faith, let us take notice of what he does mean. Shield in Scripture is sometimes called favor, as in this text; "for Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt Thou compass him, as with a shield." Sometimes it is called truth; "He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings thou shalt trust; His truth shall be thy shield and buckler." But one text will more plainly tell us what the Apostle Paul really did mean; and that is this, "Abraham walk before Me, and be thou upright; I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward." Then Paul certainly meant that this shield is the Lord Jesus Christ; for as I told you, that faith in the holiness and justice, etc., of God never can quench the fiery darts of the wicked, because God is wroth with us for sin, and is viewed by us as a consuming fire; so that there is no shield here. But God reconciled in Christ is a shield; and this takes in those two texts that I have mentioned. First, favor: this is the favor of Christ Jesus; "in the light of the king's countenance is life, and his favor (which is a shield) is like the cloud of the latter rain." But, say you, does the king here mentioned mean the Lord Jesus? Yes: hence the Father says, "yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion: blessed are all they that put their trust in Him." Again, it takes in truth also: for Christ says, "I am the truth," etc., and truth is a shield: so that God the Son in our nature is this shield. And let Satan shoot his fiery darts as fast and as thick as ever he may, they will all be quenched when the Lord Jesus manifests Himself to the soul. The water of life and love from His fullness is sure to quench these fiery darts: Satan well knows this. So that it is evident that this shield is Christ Jesus, or God reconciled in Him, for it is all one-"I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward"-and He is above all. For certainly the person from whom these blessings flow (of the Christian armor) is above the blessings themselves; so that Paul might well say, "above all, taking the shield of faith," etc.
5. "And take the helmet of salvation." You see that every part of this armor has to do with experience; so that those that have only head notions of truth cannot put it on. Now an helmet is a cap of steel put on the head to guard it, and Paul tells us what he means by it spiritually; hence he says, "and for an helmet the hope of salvation." (1 Thess. 5:8) But you will say that hope has to do with the heart, and not with the head. To this I will answer what I once heard Mr. Huntington (now in glory) observe in the sequel of his discourse (for he mentioned that text in Thessalonians). "Suppose you have a good understanding of truth in your head, yea, every truth of the everlasting Gospel, but have no experience, if an arch heretic gets hold of you he will soon dispute you out of these truths; but if you hold the doctrine of election, and have made your calling and election sure-if you hold the doctrine of the atonement, and your conscience is cleansed from sin-if you hold the doctrine of imputed righteousness, and feel peace, the blessed effect of it, etc., this is the experience that worketh hope; and having this good hope within, though they may for a time baffle and confuse you, yet you never can give all up. Thus hope is the helmet; and guards the head from every error." I thought it was a blessed remark indeed. This hope will at times be sorely tried by Satan; and I know that let you and I have what truth so ever we may, we shall be sure to give up to him if destitute of this good hope.
I will just drop a hint or two how you may know whether you have this hope or not. Did you ever discover your own heart; and do you know anything of temptations, and what is a good hope founded upon? Is it not upon the promise of God made to such sinners as you see and feel yourself to be? Does not David say, "remember the Word of promise to Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope?" And again, it is founded upon mercy, "the Lord takes pleasure in them that fear Him, and in them that hope in His mercy." Now the promise is to quicken us-"this is the promise that He hath promised us, eternal life; and this life is in the Son. He that hath the Son hath life." And this mercy is to regenerate us; "of His mercy He saves us, by the washing of regeneration." But suppose it could be proved that there never was and never will be such a person as the Lord Jesus Christ, and that salvation is of works instead of grace-why, say you, I should sink in black despair and go mad. Then, I say, if this is really the truth, your hope and trust is in the promises of God in Christ Jesus, and the sure mercies of David that were given to him; for if not, such tidings would never trouble you at all, and you will know that it is a good hope, as you go on, by getting into many furnaces of affliction again and again, and they will consume everything of a fleshly hope; but this good hope, by these trials, will get stronger and stronger in time, so that you will "rejoice in hope of the glory of God"; of that glory that is to be revealed. But the dreadful sinkings and bordering upon despair before this takes place, as well as after, will teach you the worth of this hope, and that "it is an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast," etc. And every dreadful storm you get over, will be a precious waymark to you, and will afford you great consolation to think that you are in the possession of a good hope through grace, founded upon the promises of God, and mercy of God also in Christ Jesus, who is the object of this hope. Hence Paul calls Him, that "blessed hope," etc.
"Take the helmet of salvation." This is everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, which abounds by Christ, as our text says, and is a fruit of God's Spirit also, for He is the Spirit of grace, etc. None will value such things as I am writing about but tried Christians.
6. "And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Observe how particular the Apostle is here; he does not say, take the sword only, but the Spirit also; which we may take notice of two ways, and both of them are very necessary. First, the Word of God was indited by holy men of God, and they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Therefore "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness," etc., so that this is the sword of God's Spirit. But, secondly, it must be so handled by God's Good Spirit as to be the sword of our spirits. Hence the same Apostle says, "the Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit (so that this sword reaches our spirits), joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Now two different effects are produced by the sword of the Spirit in the hand of the Holy Ghost; first, when this sword is used to the reprobate, they are sure to fight against it. Read wherever you will in God's Word, from Genesis to Revelations, and you will always find this to be the case. As for example, when Stephen stood before his accusers (full of the Holy Ghost), and was helped to handle this sword well, they fought against it; "when they heard these things, they were cut (by this sword) to the heart, and gnashed on him with their teeth." But when it comes to God's elect, though they feel the same resisting of it working within, yet it is so managed by the Blessed Spirit, that they are brought in time to fall under it. Hence when Peter preached, you read, "they were cut (by the same sword) to the heart, and cried, men and brethren, what shall we do?" And you see the blessed effects that followed, even their conversion to God; "Thine arrows are sharp in the hearts of the king's enemies, whereby the people fall under Thee." There shall come into your assembly one that believeth not and unlearned, he is convinced of all, judged of all, and the secrets of his heart are made manifest; he will fall down on his face, and worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. (1 Cor. 14:24-25) All these Scriptures prove the elect's falling under the Word as the Spirit of God is pleased in a sovereign way.
"Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Now you and I are called to a fight, a hard and sore warfare; and how are we to stand against the enemies of our Lord, and our enemies through grace, without this sword? And there is no one that can stand before the plain Word of God, delivered by a man from feeling experience, and under the influence of God's Spirit. The Lord has often so highly favored me in this way, that I have wondered at it. So foolish as I often feel I am, yet with this sword He has helped me to fight again and again to Him be all the glory.
But there is one thing which I wish you to observe, and that is this, that to the elect, the Word and the Spirit go together, and both into their hearts; but to a gifted professor, the Word and the Spirit only come into the judgment; and this was a promise that God the Father made to His dear Son. Hence He says, "My Spirit that is upon Thee, and My words which I have put in Thy mouth, shall not depart out of Thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of Thy seed, nor out of the mouth of Thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever." (Isa. 59:21) Hence David says, "Thy Word have I hid in my heart," etc., and David was anointed with oil out of a horn, to show the stability of the kingdom God gave him, for the Spirit of God came upon David from that day forward; but not so with Saul, he was anointed with oil out of a glass bottle, to show how brittle his reign would be; and after this God left him, and an evil spirit from God troubled him. So it was, and ever will be with all those that have gifts without grace; "to him that hath (the Word of life and God's Spirit of grace), to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; but to him that hath not (these things in his heart) from him shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have." You see how needful it is for those that have on this armor to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Now the Lord Jesus Christ calls this Word His; hence He says, My Word is spirit, My Word is life"; and as I have showed that it is the Spirit that produces it in us, then our consolations abound by Christ; and these things are very great consolations at times to us-that "out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, the Lord has ordained strength," to perfect praise, in order to still the enemy and avenger. "The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child put his hand on the cockatrice den," etc., the blessed effects of this sword.
This sword is very needful for to cut a backslider; and God is pleased to use it for this purpose. Hence Nathan comes to David with the Word of God, and David felt it, and fell under it; it brought him to close examination, honest confession, and humble petitioning. God sometimes uses this sword, and it cuts so close under the Word preached, that we expect to be cut clean off. I have trembled under Mr. Huntington and Mr. B-k. 0 it is hard work: but He that wounds, will in His own time heal, as I have lived to prove. You and I need take this sword, for we have many enemies; and a blessed thing it is when God enables us to handle it well, as He did David, "blessed be the Lord which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight." It is hard work for the sinner to kick against the pricks, when we come with God's Word, and our own experience; and therefore take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Very great consolation to have such a blessed armor.
Lastly, Praying and watching; when the Apostle says, "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit," several things are meant. It shows continual danger, and for us to be always at it. In another place he says, "pray without ceasing." If we sink very low, we need to pray against despair, pleading the promised support and strength; and if we rise very high, we need to pray against a light and trifling spirit; and God has promised to "water us every moment, lest any hurt us," to keep us (in the night of desertion) as well as (the day of prosperity). We are to change our prayers according to our feelings; if barren and dead, pray for life; if beset with corruptions, God has promised to subdue them, and that grace shall reign; if with outward enemies, God says, "no weapon formed against thee shall prosper," etc. Thus I might go on. "All prayer"-in secret, walking the streets, at home in the closet, or on our bed-amongst the saints, or in the house of God. "In the Spirit"-this cuts at a form of prayer, where the heart is not engaged with God. Such are said to draw nigh with their mouths, and to honor God with their lips, but their heart (or spirit) is far from Him. Such are vain worshippers: but this must be in the spirit, for "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth." These are true worshippers, in opposition to false or hypocritical-He requires wisdom and truth in the hidden parts of the heart. These things plainly show that flesh and blood can do nothing, and that a man must be furnished with God's Spirit; hence the same Apostle says, "we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God." "We know not how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit maketh intercession for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26). And really, when in my right mind, I rejoice that I can do nothing, for this secures the whole glory to God. Job says, "by reason of darkness we know not how to order our speech." You see we are worse than a machine; for set that a going, and it will keep on; but the same power that sets us going, must keep us going, or else we cannot go at all in any right path. I know well what I am writing about.
But Paul adds, "and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." This watching is enforced by the Lord Jesus, "watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." Satan is never asleep if we are-no, nor is he off his watch; "he goeth about as a roaring lion," and he sometimes croucheth and humbleth that the poor may fall, etc. He is ever setting traps, spreading nets, and laying baits, snares, etc. He knows our besetting sins and weakest side. Against all this we do well to watch. Again, it is needful for us to watch when we go to see a Christian friend, and look out for the presence of Jesus; to watch our frames in going to prayer and coming from it; whether we have gained any ground, "godliness with contentment is great gain"-if we have to bless Him for it; to watch His hand in providence, and if it goes out against us, to say with Job, "shew me wherefore Thou contendest with me?" Yes, and narrowly and minutely to watch Him in all His dealings with us; for "he that will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord." But on the other hand, "because they regard not the operations of His hand, He will destroy them, and not build them up." To watch also when we go to hear the Word. If careless, does the Word ever search us; if dead and lifeless, are we quickened by it; if cold, are our hearts warmed; if we have slipped, and fell into sin, are we reproved and rebuked; if we have erred in doctrine, are we brought to confess the truth, and fall before it; if backslidden, are we restored, etc. Now we do well to watch what good effects are produced by our continual hearing: and if there is a growth in grace and knowledge, and we get more established, "offer to the Lord thanksgiving," etc. "It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Thy name, 0 Thou Most High! To shew forth Thy loving-kindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night." (Psa. 92:1-2)
Again, "with all perseverance." This shows that there will be great opposition. But, says Paul, "be not weary in well-doing." Long and sore trials and afflictions will bear hard against us, for it is a path of tribulation. It is no easy thing for one that fears God, having no particular trial of his own in providence, and being pretty well off, to be continually burdened with this and that poor saint, whose real need calls for his assistance. This if it continues long without intermission will try the reality of his love to the brethren, and Satan will tempt him to shake this yoke off altogether; but, Paul says, "be not weary in well-doing." Again, the poor creature that is thus helped, is tempted to drop his profession, for he thinks he only follows Christ for the loaves and fishes; and therefore Satan tempts him to shun the company of them his soul loves, telling him that he is a burden to them, and that they wish him to keep away; but no, says Paul, "with all perseverance"; persevere in hearing, though all appears against you; persevere in praying, though your prayers appear to be shut out; persevere in reading, though you get darker and darker; and persevere in uniting with the saints, doing good both to their bodies and souls; also in praying and watching over them.
"And supplication for all saints." A saint is one that is set apart in God's eternal purpose, called out of this world, a partaker of God's Holy Spirit, washed in the blood of Christ, clothed with His righteousness, and lives to His honor and glory; and as such are sure to have much sufferings as they travel on to the heavenly Canaan, the Lord will lay them upon one another's mind, and sometimes will appear for them in answer to another's prayer, as you may see in Peter, when Herod shut him up in prison: "prayer by the church was made without ceasing," and God brought him out. Hence Paul says, "brethren, pray for us."
Now all these things rightly considered, are great consolations: but it all springs from Christ Jesus; for whatever we ask, it must be in His name. There is no access to God without a Mediator; so that our consolations abound by Christ.
Thus I have treated a little about this armor, and showed that Christ is the sum and substance of it all. The loins are to be girt with truth-"I am the truth": the breastplate of righteousness-He is "the Lord our righteousness": the feet shod-He is our peace, and prepared it in eternity: the shield-"I am thy shield, Abraham"; "Thou, Lord, art a shield for me," says David: the helmet of hope-and He is that blessed hope: the sword or Word of God-My Word is life; and every prayer must go up through the incense of this Great High Priest. Well, say you, and this is the Christian's armor? Yes, it really is-and say you, O that I knew that I had it on! Paul will tell you. Now as every part of it points to the Lord Jesus Christ, then, says Paul, "put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and walk in Him": and what is that? Why, it lays in a love to Him, His people, His truth, and His ways; for charity is the more excellent way. Now every time you feel this love in exercise, it proves that you have this armor; and as you go on, your path will shine more and more.
But finally, There is one thing more that has been great consolation to my soul, and to many others, and this is, that the Law is not a believer's rule of life. Now for a poor wounded soul that sees and feels his true state in the fall, that has long been trying to love God, and keep His commandments, and love his neighbor as himself, but feels he is quite opposite, that he hates God, and all that is good, and loves sin-hates his neighbor, and loves himself-for such a one that is brought to death's door with this legal working spirit, and expects daily to be consumed by the wrath of God, to be cut down as a cumberer of the ground-I say, for the Son of God to make him free from this heavy unbearable yoke, and to be under Christ's easy yoke, and his burden (instead of the burden of sin), which is light, 0 what consolation this is! But God's family that are weak in faith, suffer much here, as you read in the 15th of Acts, read it carefully. "But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees, which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses." These things distressed many of the brethren. The Apostles therefore met together, and consulted of this matter, and sent letters to Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, to counteract these false assertions. Peter calls it tempting God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, "which (said he), neither we nor our fathers were able to bear; but we believe, that through the grace of the Lord Jesus, we shall be saved even as they." So when the Epistle was read to the multitude at Antioch, they rejoiced for the consolations.
And thus, as the Lord has helped me, I have gone through the text, which I might have greatly enlarged on; and never as I can recollect have I been so tried and tempted by Satan in writing any book. God grant that it may be suitable to the afflicted, tempted, and tried of God's family. It is a book that will not suit the carnal professor with head notions. I have entreated the Lord for His blessing on it into whose hands soever it may fall, and if but one soul is blessed in reading it, it will not be in vain. I shall finish with the following text, "for our light afflictions which are but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." Glory to God the Father, for His eternal love-to God the Son, for taking our nature, and suffering in our stead-and to God the Holy Ghost, for all the comfort and consolation we have; Three Divine Persons in One Jehovah, be everlasting praise. Amen and Amen.