Daily Readings for February.
God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4. 6.
Without this saving knowledge, we have no God, no Christ, no grace, no faith, no union with Christ, no actual justification, pardon of sin, peace, nor eternal life. But whoever has found Christ, the pearl of great price, the treasure hid, has found matter of great rejoicing; for he was poor before, and this treasure enriched him; he was naked before, but, finding this treasure, he is gloriously clothed, he was forced before to feed on husks, but now he feeds on the bread of life; he was far in debt before, but now he sees the debt is paid, that he is justified from all things, and pardoned for ever; he was a child of wrath before, but now he is become a child of God, that he was a captive, and in chains before, but now he is set at liberty; condemned before, but now sees there is no condemnation to him, nor to anyone that is in Christ Jesus; that he was a fool before, but now he is made wise to salvation. Reader, canst thou set thy seal to the truth and power of such experience? Then thou art wise indeed; if not, thou hast much to learn; apply with speed , and remember it is God alone that gives this light and knowledge.
Father of love and grace,
Thy light to me impart;
Reflected from thy dear Son's face
And beaming on my heart.
This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 3. 23. God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 1 John 4. 9.
The Father breaks forth, as it were, through the whole Scriptures, in high praises of his Son; he calls out from heaven, "'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him,'" Matthew 7. 5. Nothing, therefore, can be more agreeable to him than to receive this his Son, and to believe his report, John 16. 27; and on doing this we shall have life; but by omitting it we look upon him as a liar. Unbelief, therefore, which refuses to accept of his great gift is, no doubt, the greatest of all sins. O Lord, teach me this, and grant me faith.
Why art thou so backward, O my poor soul, to believe like the rest of God's children, in Christ? Hast thou not as good a right to have it as they have? Who can dispute with thee this privilege? It is the express will of the Father: nay, he even commands thee to do it. Has he given his only Son, by an act of inconceivable love, to die for thee, to the very end that thou shouldst live? Oh, what a pleasing thing will it be to him, to put thy whole trust upon this his well-beloved Son! This would be the joy of his heart more than anything else; therefore, delay no longer to receive what his love has offered thee, but firmly believe that the Father loves thee as well as the Son.
Author of faith, to thee I lift up
My weary longing eyes;
Oh let me now receive that gift!-
My soul without it dies.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Revelations 5. 12.
O Lord, what mean and slight notions have I often of thy great power! By these I am discouraged, and thou art robbed of thy praise; grant therefore, that though I would always be duly abased and convinced of my vileness, in such a manner as never to ascribe any good to myself, or think worthy of the least thing in the way of merit - for at the best I am an unprofitable servant! - yet thy grace and power may at the same time appear to me abundantly greater than all my sins, so that I may have always encouragement enough to believe in and praise thy holy name.
Come let us join our cheerful song
With angels round the throne;
Ten thousand thousand are their tongues,
But all their joys are one.
"Worthy the Lamb that died," they cry,
"To be exalted thus:"
"Worthy the Lamb," our lips reply,
"For he was slain for us."
Let all that dwell above the sky,
And air, and earth, and seas,
Conspire to lift his glories high
And speak his endless praise.
The whole creation join in one
To bless the sacred name
Of him that sits upon the throne,
And to adore the Lamb.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips. Psalm 63. 5. Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come. Revelations 19. 6, 7.
What tends not to thy glory, O Lord, and is not thy own work, whatever appearance it may have, is not really good and profitable; preserve assist me, therefore, to do all things as of thee, in thy sight, and to thy honour. May my soul be ever magnifying thy name, O my dear Redeemer and Bridegroom, and my whole conversation be directed to thy praise! Grant that my heart and mouth may be ever full of thy great mercies, and overflow continually with thanksgiving.
My God, my King, thy various praise
Demands thanksgiving all my days;
Oh, let thy grace employ my tongue,
Till death and glory raise the song!
Grant, Lord, that every hour may bear
Some thankful tribute to thy ear
And every setting sun may see
New works of duty done for thee.
Thy faithfulness endures the same;
Thy bounty flows an endless stream;
Thy mercy swift, thy anger slow,
But dreadful to the stubborn foe.
And who can speak thy wonderous deeds?
Thy greatness all our thoughts exceeds
Vast and unsearchable thy ways,
Vast and immortal be thy praise.
Forsake not the works of thine own hands. Psalm 138. 8.
-Divine Answer. He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1.6.
The right way to grow in grace is to give up thyself wholly to thy heavenly Father, who knoweth all thy wants, and has engaged to supply them. Then labour diligently to walk with Christ, and carefully cherish the new life, which, be it ever so weak and little now in comparison to the old man, will increase and gradually outgrow him, as a new skin does the old. May the Lord only give us grace to watch against the opposite extreme, so as to never be lulled into a false rest, or lukewarm spirit; but to be ever diligently and seriously employed in crucuifying the flesh, and using all the means of grace! Then we need not be anxiously troubled for the growing of the work of God in our souls.
My soul lies cleaving to the dust;
Lord, give me life divine;
From vain desires and evil lusts
Turn off these eyes of mine.
I need the influence of thy grace
To speed me in thy way,
Lest I should loiter in my race,
Or turn my feet astray.
Are not thy mercies sov'reign still,
And thou a faithful God?
Wilt thou not grant me warmer zeal
To run the heavenly road?
The fashion of this world passeth away. 1 Corinthians 7. 31b.
As long as we feed on the husks of this world, and are in love with it, we are neither willing nor able to taste the comforts of the love of God; but when sin and the world are become an abomination to us, and we desire to be rid of them, and seek diligently unto Jesus Christ for the help of his grace, and the benefit of his blood, we are then in a right way to receive the love of God, and every blessing of salvation; and though we are chastened by the Lord, yet he is not angry with us, but does it to imbitter sin and the world more and more to us, and make us loathe them, that we may not be condemned with the world.
Let worldly minds the world pursue,
It has no charms for me
Once I admired its trifles too
But grace has set me free.
Its pleasures now no longer please,
No more content afford;
Far from my heart be joys like these,
Now I have known the Lord.
As by the light of the opening day
The stars are all conceal'd,
So earthly pleasures fade away
When Jesus is reveal'd.
Now, Lord, I would be thine alone,
And wholly live to thee;
But may I hope that thou wilt own
A worthless worm like me?
Yea, though of sinners I'm the worst,
I cannot doubt thy will;
For, if thou hadst not loved me first,
I had refused thee still.
Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, Amen. Matthew 6. 13.
(They) shall cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power. Revelations 4. 10b, 11.
One that is really poor in spirit, though he hath practised the duty of a Christian life ever so long, and ever so diligently, always thinks himself to have received but a little portion of Christ, and the work of sanctification hardly to be begun in his soul. So far is he from believing he has already attained it, that, after all his best actions, he counts himself not worthy to be called by the name of a grateful son; he is never pleased with himself. No degree of holiness will satisfy his soul. He seeks and finds no rest or comfort but in the infinite mercy of God, and in the pardon of his sins by faith, though he does not divide Christ, but receives him in all his offices, and gives himself entirely up to him without reserve, to be more and more sanctified and perfected; and in this state he is safe indeed; he is prepared for death, and has no reason to be anxiously afraid, though earnestly desirous of higher degrees of sanctification.
The kingdom is thine, we proclaim,
Thy power prevails over men;
The glory is due to thy name,
For ever and ever. Amen.
He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure; for this is all my salvation, and all my desire. 2 Samuel 23. 5. I have made a covenant with my chosen. Psalm 89.3.
This was David's plea and confidence, when, with eternity full before him, he was going to make his appearance before an infinitely pure God. This must be our plea also, if ever we would obtain the approbation of our Judge. After a life of most emminent holiness, the best of men will have reason to cry out, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord!" It is true, indeed, the believer will discover some evidences of grace, just to show the child of God, and no more; but all so imperfect that he dares not ground his expectation on them. Here the covenant of grace steps into his relief, wherein he sees ample provision for the security of his eternal interest: for the covenant is made with Christ and his seed. It is an everlasting covenant, not only made before time, but extending it beneficial effects through the ages of eternity. It is ordered in all things, therefore nothing can be wanting in it, either to promote the glory of God, or the salvation of believers. It is sure also; depending on no conditions requiring nothing but what it gives, conferring its blessings freely, and making them sure to all the seed, being established upon better promises. Happy souls, who are interested in this well-ordered covenant. May it be all my salvation, and my desire!
Thy word, O God, begetteth faith;
From thence our hope doth spring;
Founded alone on what God saith,
My soul, adore and sing.
Thy word is truth, thy promise sure;
Hence faith and hope abide:
True faith in Jesus will endure:
Nought can from Christ divide.
I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. John 14. 16, 17.
When God designed the great and glorious work of recovering fallen man, and the saving of sinners, "to the praise of the glory of his grace," he appointed, in his infinite wisdom, two great means thereof: the one was his giving of his Son for them; and the other was his giving of his Spirit unto them. And hereby was way made for the manifestation of the glory of the blessed Trinity, which is the utmost end of all the works of God. Hereby were the love, grace and wisdom of the Father, in the design and contrivance of the whole; the love, grace, and condescension of the Son, in the execution, purchase and procurement of grace and salvation for sinners ; with the love, grace and power of the Holy Spirit, in the effectual application of all unto the souls of men, made gloriously conspicious. To these heads may all the promises of God be reduced. Happy for the church, that the Spirit is to abide with it for ever! - awful to think the unconverted world neither can receive or know the Holy Spirit!
Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
Bringing peace, and bringing love
Take me, and possess me whole;
Form the Saviour in my soul.
Be my true and constant Guide,
In my fainting heart abide;
All the grace of God reveal,
And each precious promise seal.
Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 2 Corinthains 7. 10.
There is a sorrow that is called godly, because it is produced in us by the Spirit of God discovering the evil of sin, and the plague of corruption of our own hearts, and deeply humbling us under a sense of sin, producing evangelical repentance, and leading the soul to cry to the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and salvation,- The Holy Spirit at the same time enabling us to believe in him, and rest upon his person, blood, and righteousness, for redemption and salvation; which repentance will never be repented of: but sorrow, arising from the love of this world, worketh death,- eternal death. Lord Jesus, grant me to feel more of this godly sorrow for sin, and rejoice more in thee as my Saviour!
Father, thy long-lost child receive;
Saviour, thy purchase own;
Blest Comforter, with peace and joy,
Thy waiting creature own.
Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Psalm 97. 11.
The Eleventh of February.
Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness; he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. Psalm 112. 4. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward; for ye have need of patience, etc. For yet a little while, and he that will come shall come, and will not tarry. Hebrews 10. 35, 37; Isaiah 58. 10-12.
This shows that believers are subject to many changes of joy and sorrow. In a state of gladness, therefore, we have reason to fear; and, in the hours of trouble and sadness, to entertain good hopes. Thus we shall always be able to keep the happy medium between extremes of levity and despair. Before a man has a true sense of his own miseries, the complaints and infirmities of the saints are often a stumbling-block, but afterwards they will administer to him great comfort. This is the reason that God has revealed them in Scripture; for the complaints of his elect children give more comfort than all their most heroic actions.
Alas! it swells my sorrows high,
To see my blessed Jesus frown;
My spirits sink, my comforts die,
And all the springs of life are drown.
Yet why, my soul, why these complaints?
Still while he frowns his bowels moves;
Still on his heart he bears the saints,
With tender sympathy and love.
I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. Romans 7. 21.
O my soul! thou art always striving; yet sin is alway stirring: thou fearest the truth of grace, because thou findest the working of sin; but it will always be thus; thou canst not come out of Egypt, but Amalek will lay wait in the way; the flesh will be sure to trouble thee, although it will never be able to conquer thee. He therefore that sits down, and is at rest in sin, it is a sign that Satan is there, the strong man, because his kingdom is in peace; but where there is any work of Christ, there will always be war with sin. Sin was the womb of death, and only death must be the tomb of sin. God would have my soul humbled; therefore, though he hath broken my prison, yet he hath left the chains upon my feet; God would have my graces exercised; therefore, though he hath translated me into the kingdom of life, yet he hath left the Canaanite in the land: God would have my faith exercised; therefore Goliath still shows himself in the field, that so I might go out to him "in the name of the Lord." I will betake me to the strength of Christ; though I cannot help the rebelling power of sin, yet, through grace, I will labour to prevent the ruling power of it.
Though sin will in believers dwell,
Till death the inmates part;
O Jesus, save me from this hell
Which lurks within my heart!
God was is Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5. 19, 21.
The Thirteenth of February.
It highly concerns believers, who desire to keep a constant peace in their bosoms, to be ever sensible of their spiritual poverty, and to feed and rest wholly on the all sufficient atonement and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Disquiet of mind and laziness of soul, often proceed from self-righteousness, and not looking to Christ for everything, but trusting secretly to something in ourselves.
Jesus, thou art our righteousness,
For all my sins are thine;
Thy death has bought of God my peace,
Thy life has made him mine.
For ever here my rest shall be,
Close to thy bleeding side;
'Tis all my hope, and all my plea-
For me the Saviour died.
My dying Saviour and my God,
Fountain for guilt and sin,
Sprinkle me ever with thy blood,
And cleanse and keep me clean.
Nevertheless I am continually with thee. Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. Psalm 73: 23-26.
Babes in religion not only long for Christ, but for sensible communion with him; and very often they are indulged with it, that they may be weaned from the world. But those of fuller age, who have their senses more exercised, are thankful they can trust him when they do not see him, and can follow him when they feel no comfort; relying more on the word and covenant of God than on sweet sensations, which, though ever precious and desirable, are oft withdrawn in times of trouble and temptation.
How oft hath sin and Satan strove
To rend my soul from thee, my God
But everlasting is thy love,
And Jesus seals it with his blood.
Admidst temptation sharp and strong,
My soul to this refuge flies;
Hope is my anchor, firm and strong,
When tempests blow and billows rise.
The gospel bears my spirit up;
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation of my hope
In oaths, and promises, and blood.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. Psalm 46. 4, 5. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.1 John 4.4; Psalm 110. 2; Zechariah 2. 5.
The Fifteenth of February.
True Christians, in a right spirit, still are subject to temptations from within and without: but, watching unto prayer, they do not fall by them. On the contary, as temptations are great helps to discover their hidden infirmities, and stir them up to be more cautious, serious, and faithful, they are followed with great and glorious victories. Temptations are not indeed joyous in themselves, but are attended with good fruit and blessed effects in the faithful. Hence, St. James bids us count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations. What reason have we, then, to be afraid of temptations, since every one carries a new blessing along with it?
Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the billows near me roll,
While the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Saviour hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe unto the haven guide,
Oh receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on thee;
Leave ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stay'd,
All my help from thee I bring;
Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of thy wing.
Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey in the lusts thereof: Romans 6, 12 Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4, 7
O my soul, how awful is thy state by nature and practice! Sin hath gained a dominion over thee; its influence is universal over the soul and body,
and over every son and daughter of Adam: it hath brought death on the body, and subjected the soul to everlasting misery; its authority is unjust, and its power cruel and destructive.
Lord Jesus, let me adore thine effectual grace, that it hath in any measure delivered me from it power, and assist my poor heart in opposing and rejecting every temptation to obey it
in the lusts thereof; let thy precious blood effectually seccure me from the guilt of sin in this life, and punishment of it in another. O my soul, if thou art a faithful follower of Jesus,
though Satan received a deadly wound when Christ was crucified for us, yet his malice is still the same; thou hast a thousand enemies, and the devil is the leader of them all.
Oh may I, with the deepest humility, look to Jesus, rest upon Jesus, and derive daily strength from him to resist the devil; and finally come to off conqueror, and more than conqueror,
through him that loved me! Amen.
Stretch out thine arm, victorious King,
My reigning sin subdue;
Drive the old dragon from his seat;
And form my soul anew.
Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 2 Corinthians 5, 16.
The Seventeenth of February.
What is it to know Christ in the flesh? It is to content ourselves with carnal views of his person, character, and kingdom.
This was the case with all those who followed him, not on account of his miracles and doctrines, but for the loaves and fishes. Alas! are there not
too many who wish to know Christ for carnal, worldly interest, and not that they may be saved from a proud, rebellious heart, and an ungodly life?
O my soul, let me see to it that my seeking after Christ may not be carnal, but spiritual! worldly interest is too apt, it may be feared, to influence
both private professors and even public preachers. True believers can say, that henceforth this carnal knowledge of Christ is not their pursuit.
Where the Spirit of Jesus regenerates the heart, and we are brought to a spiritual and experimental knowledge of Christ, we shall love him, rejoice in
him, humbly submit to his will in all things, aand daily pray to become more and more like him. O thou dear and precious Jesus! grant that this may be
more and more my experience, till I know thee in all thy holiness and glory, for ever and ever!
I cannot live contented here,
Without some glimpse of thy face;
And heav'n, without thy presence there,
Would be a dark and tiresome place.
The flesh of mine might learn as soon
To live, yet part with all my blood;
To breath when vital air is gone
Or thrive and grow without my food.
The Lord preserveth the simple. I was brought low, and he helped me. Psalm 116. 6.
He who walks in godly simplicity and humility, accounting his own infirmities always the greatest, will best be preserved from being
puffed up and sifted by the enemy of souls; and truly, nothing should humble us more than justification by free grace. The more we consider and carefully
cherish that, the more this simple, child-like, quiet temper will increase; for there is nothing in ourselves which can be depended upon, but all must be freely
received from Christ, this, at the same time cutting off all vain boasting, brings us low, settles our peace in Christ, who is our all, and is sure enough to be
rested upon. It is only from thee, O my dear Saviour, I can learn true simplicity;- teach me, therefore, to turn thine eyes, not upon others, but upon thyself.
humble me to the uttermost, and fashion me after thine own mind, that I may be careful to avoid everything that is contrary to love. Keep me, O my light, from
all self-dependence and self-conceit, bridle my carnal reason, and pull down all vain imaginations. Grant that my eye may be fixed only upon one thing needful
which lasts eternally; and that in all my words, deeds, and gestures, I may always resemble the simplicity, innocence, fidelity, and love of a little child.
Matthew 18. 3.
Rich grace, free grace, most sweetly calls,
Directly come who will,
Just as you are, for Christ receives
Poor helpless sinners still.
'Tis grace that feeds our souls;
Grace keep us inly poor;
And oh nothing else but grace
May rule for ever more!
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23. 1. He says it himself.
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish,
neither shall any pluck them out of my hand John 10. 10, 28.
The Nineteenth of February.
Reader! is the Lord Jesus thy shepherd? Has he called thee out of the wilderness? called thy heart from the love of sin and the world,
and brought thee into a close atttendance on his ordinances? And does he refresh and feed thy soul with his word? Canst thou distinguish the Shephers's voice
from the voice of a hireling? And does thy heart cleave to the Shepherd in faith and love, adoring person, and approving his laws, as well as admiring his doctrines?
Then fear not; the Lord is with thee; Jesus is thy Shepherd; Thou shalt want nothing that is really good. Follow the Shepherd till he bring thee to glory.
My shepherd is the living Lord;
Now shall my wants be supplied;
His providence and holy word
Become my safety and my guide.
My wandering feet his ways mistake
But he restores my soul to peace,
And leads me, for his mercy's sake
In the fair path of righteousness.
The everlasting gospel. Revelations 14. 6.
The gospel is properly called "glad tidings," for these reason: we are polluted with the filth of sin; in it is opened a fountain
for sin and uncleanness: the way to heaven is blocked up by our sins; it reveals "a new and living way, through the flesh of Christ." We are imprisoned
debtors by multiplied transgressions; it shows that a price, the most inestimable, has been paid to discharged us. We have by nature hard, cold, and impenitent
hearts; in it is promised a heart of flesh. We can of ourselves do nothing, it shows that through Christ we can do all things. We feel that we are liable to err
and backslide; it declares, that God will scourge us till we return to him, but not take his loving-kindness from us. We know that we are liable to many
calamities; it teaches us that they shall all work together for good. We see that we are dying creatures; by it we are assured that we have a forerunner in heaven,
and an eternal habitation with God in glory. Lord, send abroad and bless this gospel!
Salvation! let the echo fly
The spacious earth around
While all the armies of the sky
Conspire to raise the sound.
They profess that they know God; but in works deny him. Titus 1. 10.
The Twenty First of February.
There is a profession of a special kind, which in its own nature is exposed to the reproach of the world: "They that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." There is a being in Christ, and not living godly; for there are branches in the vine, by profession, that bring forth no fruit; men that have not in them the mind that was in Christ Jesus, which torments the men of earth: but they that will live godly, that is, engage in a profession that shall, on all occasions, and in all instances, manifest the power of it, they shall suffer persecution. We see many every day keep up a profession; but such a profession as will not provoke the world. Now this is to be ashamed of the gospel, to be ashamed of the power and glory of it, to be ashamed of the Author of it. No man can put Jesus Christ to greater shame than by professing the gospel without showing the power of it, Phillipians 3. 18. There can be no more vile and sordid hypocrisy than for any to pretend unto inward, habitual sanctification, while their lives are barren in the fruits of righteousness and obedience. Reader, of all the dangers in profession, beware of customary, traditional, or doctrinal owning of gospel truths, without an experimental acquanitance with the reality and efficacy of them; for all such will have their portion where is "wailing and gnashing of teeth."
O fairest Pearl of price
Thy riches let me see,
And freely sacrifice
The world's esteem for thee;
For thee I would count all things loss,
And glory in thy cross!
I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3. 15.
By "the seed of the woman" is to be understood Christ the Saviour; not excluding his friends and followers in every age of the world. This prediction of a Saviour signified to our first parents these four things; 1. That the promised Saviour was not to be the man's but the woman's seed, or born of a virgin: 2. That he was to be a man by that expression, "Thou shalt bruise his heel:" 3. That he should break the head of the serpent, or destroy his power and dominion over mankind, and punish him, and all his votaries, with an utter destruction; and, 4. That in order to our Saviour's doing so, he must have his own heel, or human nature, that the lowest part of his meditatory person, bruised by the serpent, or presented and put to death by the devil and his emissaries. This was the first intimation of a Saviour that was made to the world, it was made to the serpent, for his immediate confusion; made in the presence of our first parents, and before their sentence was pronounced, to inspire them with the hope of pardon and life, and with a sense of the distinguishing mercy of God, who, before he denounced so much as any temporal punishment, animated to them with the hope of eternal redemption.
Arise, arise, thou woman's seed,
And bruise the serpent in my heart!
Employ thy vengeance on his head,
And deadly strokes each day impart.
The Lord do that which seemeth him good. 2 Samuel 10. 12.
The Twenty Third of February.
A Christian still feels the motion of self-will, and, consequently, of sin in his heart. And if it be asked, How can Christ, and sin dwell together in one heart? The answer is, As a king and rebels in one kingdom or town; he does not agree or correspond with them, but subdues them, and maintains peace. But where self-will has the dominion, there is nothing but trouble and confusion; for unsanctified passions, and a bad conscience, not only are inward torments, but often occasion perplexity and damage in our worldly affairs; whereas in the blood of Christ we have a good conscience, abundance of peace, and can be content and happy in the most indifferent circumstances.
Take heed, therefore, O my dear Christian, never to be led by thy own spirit, were it even in such things as seem to bring glory to God, if it is not of his own appointment. Our hearts are sometimes very deceitfully desirious of what pleases ourselves, while we pretend to seek God's glory: and were we not crossed in these our designs, they would prove a great burden to our life. Blessed is he who not only prays with his lips, but is heartily willing also that nothing but the will of the Lord should be done in everything. It is God alone that understands what may be good or dangerous to our spiritual or temporal circumstances. We being often blinded or drawn by our lusts, are too much inclined to choose at random what would be, perhaps, most detrimental.
Saviour, to my heart be near,
Exercise thy shepherd's care!
Guard my weakness by thy grace,
Let me feel a constant peace.
The Lord will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. Psalm 102. 17. They looked unto him, and were lightened; and their faces were not ashamed. Psalm 34. 5. See also the instance of the woman of Canaan. Matthew 15. 21-28. And what Christ says, Luke 11. 5-13; and chapter 18. 1-8. Likewise of a tossed vessel. Matthew 8. 24-27.
The load of outward and inward affliction, is not always prayed away with a few words, or in a few days. Sometimes it is necessary even to wrestle with God, and be very instant too; how else could faith and practice be exercised? If, therefore, the trials be sharp and lasting, it is not to weaken our faith, but to stir us up to be more instantly zealous in prayer, and in the right use of the word of God; and by these means to be so much more gloriously delivered and strengthened in faith; for whatever God sends upon us, it not for the lessening; but for the increase of our faith.
God is the refuge of his saints,
When swords of sharp distress invade;
Ere we can offer our complaints,
Behold him present with his aid.
Let mountains from their seats be hurl'd
Down to the deep, and buried there;
Convulsions shake the solid world,-
Our faith should never yield to fear.
Though loud the troubled ocean roar,
Our souls may yet in peace abide;
While every nation, every shore
Trembles and dreads the swelling tide.
I dwell in the high and holy place, with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite one. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth, the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. Isaiah 57. 15, 16.
The Twenty Fifth of February.
To insist too much upon the sensible joys of faith, might make weaker souls weaker still. Many a sincere Christian's heart is like a bottle of a very narrow passage, which can receive the dew of heavenly comfort only by little drops. But dost thou feel thyself quite naked, and void of all good? Christ will surely cover thee with a robe of righteousness. Go entirely out of thyself, looking only to him for everything; and whatever gifts of joy, peace, and holiness may be given thee, be very thankful for them, yet trust not in them, but in Christ alone. This will make thee sure, and keep thy heart at rest.
Thus saith the high and lofty One,
I sit upon my holy throne;
My name is God, I dwell on high,
Dwell in my own eternity.
But I descend to worlds below,
On earth I have a mansion too;
The humble spirit and contrite
Is an abode of my delight.
The humble soul my words revive;
I bid the mourning sinner live;
Heal all the broken hearts I find,
And ease the sorrow of the mind.
Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. Psalm 30. 7.
It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2. 13.
See, my soul in this verse, a picture of thine own experience; how much art thou like David! When I look up to heaven how often do I see the sun both shine and set! When I look down into myself, how often do I see my comforts rise and fall! one while I am upon Mount Tabor, and have a glance of heaven; another while I lie in the valley of Bochim weeping; because I have lost sight of my heavenly country. When God would quicken my affections, he gives me a glance of heaven, that so I may be in love with what I see. When I begin to bless myself, and rest in my happy privileges, he draws a veil over the bright vision, that I may rest in nothing but himself, nor loathe what I so greatly love. He suffers my happiness here to be imperfect, that so I may be pressing on to that place where I shall be perfectly happy for ever. Lord, when thou showest thyself, let me love thee; when my mountain stands strong, let me praise thee; when thou withdrawest thyself, let me follow thee; when thy countenance is hid, let me believe still that thou lovest me; under all my changes here, let my soul be always breathing, panting, longing, and reaching after thee, till I shall so perfectly enjoy thee that I may never lose thee anymore.
Lord, guide me in this Christain race,
And keep mine eye intent on thee;
Rejoicing when I see thy face,
And trusting when I cannot see.
Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. Luke 22. 31, 32.
Yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. Amos 9. 9. I will keep thee from the hour of temptation. Revelations 3. 10.
The Twenty Seventh of February.
Sometimes we imagine ourselves to be divinely convince of the will of God, both by seeming outward providences, and inward persuasions of faith; and yet it is possible that the siftings of Satan are at the bottom; however, the Lord will overrule him at last, and order all things to the best for his people. May the Lord make us watchful against our own spirit, and against the evil one, especially when he is transformed into an angel of light, that it may not be in his power to sift us so as to gain an advantage over us, by our listening to his inward suggestions, or yielding to his subtle temptations!
In vain the baffled prince of hell
His cursed projects tries;
We that were doom'd his endless slaves
Are raised above the skies.
O may my Jesus guard me safe
From every ill design,
And to his heavenly kingdom keep
This feeble soul of mine!
God's my everlasting aid,
And hell shall rage in vain;
To him be highest glory paid
And endless praise. Amen.
Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning, of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, etc.: but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 1 Peter 3. 3, 4.
In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah 30. 15.
A Christian's best accoutrements and festival clothes, in which he daily celebrates his sabbath, are clled (Colossians 3. 10, 12, 14,) "The new man, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering: and above all, charity." These are our true ornaments, and we should seek to be dressed in them -- Reader, what dostthou adorn most? body or soul? O thou meek and quiet Lamb of God, justly I blush before thee, when I consider my impatience, though I am never innocent like thee! I humbly beseech thee to forgive me these my transgressions, since thou hast made sufficient atonememt for all by thy meritorious silence; but to deliver me from this choleric, hot, and peevish temper also; and give me grace, in all inward and outward troubles, to have the long-forbearing mind which was in thee! Make me daily more and more like a lamb, that on all occasions, grevious and joyful, I may be duly composed, and show that excellent ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, not in many words, but in reality and power. Amen.
Giver of concord, Prince of Peace,
Meek, lamb-like Son of God,
Bid our unruly passions cease
And quench them with thy blood.
Oh let us find the ancient way
Our wond'ring foes to move,
And force the heathen to say,
"See how these Christians love!"
Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none: why cumbereth it the ground? Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. Luke 13. 7-9.
The Twenty Ninth of February.
Thou fruitless fig-tree! thou barren professor! dost thou hear this, and not tremble? God is come seeking fruit:- will thy bare profession, thy knowledge of the principles of religion, satisfy the great God? Will the notions of truth in thy head, thy talking and disputing, thy hearing the word preached, thy commending or censoring sermons and preachers, just as thou art in the mood, will this serve thy turn? -- and wilt thou thus endeavour to ward off the heart-searching God? Know thou, God is come to seek for fruit, and for good fruit from thee; not the fruit of good words only, but the fruit of good works; and not the fruit of talking well, but of walking well, the fruit of holiness in life and conversation:- fruit short of this God will not regard. If thy conscience be awakened, look to thy merciful High Priest, consider well his intercession for such a barren soul as thou art: "Lord, let it alone," etc. Father, let this man live one year longer;- Oh turn away from thine anger! I will yet see what may be done;- I will try what corrections may do;- perhaps the rod may work more upon him than my word has hitherto done, and may tend to make his barren heart fruitful; I will also stir up my servants to awaken him by a more sharp and searching manner; and if these new efforts be blesse to him, all shall yet be well, thy grace magnified, and his soul saved; if not, then thou shalt cut him down.
If, under means of grace,
No fruits of grace appear
It is a dreadful case;
Though God may long forbear
At length he'll strike the threaten'd blow,
And lay the barren fig-tree low.