Daily Readings for March.
I live by the faith of the Son of God. Galatians 2. 20.
In spiritual things we are too often living upon self; we seek in frames, forms, creatures, and animal life, that inward peace and stablity of mind which is only to be found in the Redeemer. Outward duties are well in their place: they are to be performed, but not to be trusted in; they are as the scaffold to the building, a means to carry on the work; but not the work itself. When favoured with the gracious presence of Jesus, they are blessings, without it, they are nothing. The whole dependence must be on Jesus: he is the way, the truth, and the life; without him, prayers, praises, rites, and ordinances, are carcases without a soul. This is the case with every external service that is destitute of the presence and blessing of the Holy Spirit, who alones imparts communion of heart, and a quickening of the soul in faith, and in love of Jesus, and often a delightful view of that which is behind the veil of the ordinances, (such as no carnal eyecan behold,) a purely spiritual discovery of the Lord in his goodness, beauty, grandeur, and glory.
Vain are our fancies, airy flights,
If faith be cold and dead;
None but a living power unites
To Christ the living head.
'Tis faith changes all the heart,
'Tis faith that works by love,
That bids all my sinful joys depart,
And lifts the thoughts above.
Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; but narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7. 13, 14.
This sounds to harsh in the ears of the old man, who would not have the law made use of in these gospel times, either to the converted or unconverted; and yet to the old man, the law, and not the gospel, properly belongs. St. Paul, the great preacher of the gospel, made use of the law to rouse unconverted Felix from his security, Acts 24. 25.; and warn the unconverted Romans from falling into it again. Romans 8. 13.
Which way dost thou walk? Examine thyself. Is it the narrow way? - Art thou quite sure of it? - Venture not to go on any further at random. It is a matter of great consequence; if thou wilt be safe, try better for it; thou mayest be easily deceived. Alas! thou art surely in the broad road to destruction, if thou still lovest and art conformed to the world. Art thou but indifferent with regard to the things of God, relishing more the vanities, pleasure, companies, treasures, and honours of this world? - thou art in the good narrow way that leads unto life. Oh, consider this well, and stop short before it is too late, and thou drop into the bottomless pit of perdition!
Strait is the way, the door is strait,
That leads to joys on high;
'Tis but a few that find the gate,
While crowds mistake and die.
Aaron shal bear the names of the children of Israel in the breast-plate of the judgment upon his heart, when he goeth into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually; and thou shalt put in the breast-plate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, namely, light and integrity Exodus 28. 29, 30.
Now, I, saith the believer, for ever in gracious remembrance with God, since my great High Priest and Advocate, Christ Jesus, bears my name continually before him in his heart. Whenever I am in trouble about my sins, his powerful meditation will surely obtain mercy for all my transgression, and supply my wants abundantly. God not denying him anything, I can through him continually be heard, and obtain graace; for he makes perpetual intercession for me in heaven; by which all my prayers, at all times, and even now, are sanctified, and presented to the Father, who heareth him always. Oh, who would not send up his petition to heaven in faith.
Now may our joyful tongues
Our Maker's honour sing;
Jesus, the Priest, receives our songs,
And bears them to the King.
Before his Father's eye
Our humble suit he moves:
The Father lays his thunder by,
And looks, and smiles, and loves.
No fiery vengeance now,
Nor burning wrath comes down;
If justice calls for sinners' blood,
The Saviour shows his own.
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself. Luke 9. 23.
Doing this, all the rest is easy. If we know that we are nothing, are unworthy of everything, and have nothing of our own, we can lose nothing. We have no property since we are but stewards of the Lord. We have no honour or shame of our own, after the manner of the world; this being ou only honour, if God be glorified; this is our only shame, if he be dishonoured by us. The glory of God we must have at heart, and in his cause be like lions, but in our own cause like lambs. Therefore, when we are crossed in things which do not concern the glory of God, and the real good of our neighbour, but our own interests, and are unwilling tosuffer anything, we shall miscarry, and be involved in greater troubles: but denying ourselves, we shall lose only a good deal of vexation; and instead of this, receive Christ with all his spiritual and temporal blessings, as far as we want them; which alone can make us cheerful and happy. But whoever desires to please the world, seeking himself and his own glory, cannot be a follower of Christ. And how will it be with him in the hour of death and judgment? By this everyone, learned and unlearned, may try themselves: whom do they please? - God or the world?
Oh! hide this self from me, that I
No more, but Christ in me may live;
My vile affections crucify,
Let not one darling lust survive.
Unto you therefore which believe he is precious. 1 Peter 2. 7.
Reader, put these following questions to thine own heart, as in the presence of God, if thou canst answer affimatively, doubt not thy real interest in him, and in his great salvation:- Is the Lord Jesus precious to me, as he is to all who believe? Once he was to me without form or comeliness, and I saw no beauty in him; is he now to me the chiefest of ten thousand, yea, altogether lovely? Do I behold and infinite amiableness and glory in his person, a transcendent excellency in his righteousness, an inexhausted fulness in his grace, and a heaven of happiness in his love? Do I esteem him above every name, love him abobe every creature and thing, and value an interest in him before ten thousand worlds? Is the language of my soul,"None but Christ, none but Christ?" "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." Is all the world, all that is admired in it, esteemed to me as dung, and beheld with the greatest contempt, when compared with a glorious Christ, the ravishing sweetness of his love, and the unsearchable riches of his grace? Do I wish nothing so ardently, seek nothing so diligently, and rejoice in nothing so greatly, as to win Christ, and be found in him? Be this my portion - and I can say, I want, I wish, I ask no more!
In vain I seek for rest
In all created good:
It leaves me yet unblest,
And makes me pant for God,
And sure at rest I cannot be,
Until my heart finds rest in thee.
Upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir. The king's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold. Hearken O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty; for he is the Lord; and worship thou him. Psalm 45. 9-11, 13.
Observe, O my soul, that the celestial Bridgegroom does not require any ornament, merit, worthiness, or beauty of thine own. No; he will wash thee himself with his blood, he will adorn thee, and make thee truly amiable to himself and to his Father. Oh sweet and eternal truth! "He has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood." And being clothed with his righteousness, we have more than angelic beauty. If we have received the spirit of adoption, let us cleave to Christ alone, love him above all things, and walk in his commandments. This is not only our duty, but a needful evidence of our sonship.
The King of saints, how fair his face,
Adorn'd with majesty and grace;
He comes with blessings from above.
An wins the nations to his love.
At his right hand our eyes behold
The queen array'd in purest gold;
The world admires her heavenly dress,
Her robe of joy and righteousness.
He forms her beauties like his own;
He call and seats her near his throne;
Fair stranger, let thine heart forget
The idols of thy native state..
So shall the King the mor rejoice
In thee, the favourite of his choice;
Let him be loved, and yet adored,
For he's thy Maker and thy Lord.
They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. Galatians 5. 24.
Although the flesh be alive still, and frequently stir, yet it cannot fulfil its desire when it is fastened to the cross with the crucifying of the flesh we have to do as long as we live. This is the cross we are to take up daily, and which either prevents more outward crosses, or at least yields great comfort in them. The cross being an extraordinary good means to experience the sweetness of the word of God, thou must always be ready and prepared for it, O my soul. And if none come from it, take care to break thine own will in everything. Painful and hard as this may seem at first, yet it will certainly very soon grow easier, and be a matter of real joy. Blessing and peace will attend thy ways and steps, and thou shalt glorify God for having resigned and guided, not by thy own, but for his good will and pleasure. Self-will, on the other hand, creates nothing but vexation, trouble, and uneasiness. It is punished by itself, deprives us of real blessings; and therefore deserves, and is best, to be broken and crucified in it first motions.
Still I feel a fleshly part,
Much corruption in my heart;
Oh! I'm very vile indeed!
Of thy blood I sure have need.
Break, Oh break this heart of stone!
Form it for thy use alone;
But each vanity depart;
Build thy temple in my heart.
And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and his offering he had no respect. Genesis 4. 4, 5.
Here are two brothers, bringing each of them an oblation to the Lord. Cai, as an husbandman, brought of the produce of the ground he cultivated; Abel, as a shepherd, some of the firstlings of his flock, with the fat of them; consequently, both believed that there was a God that made the world, and was to be worshipped; and yet one was accepted, and the other rejected. Cain's sacrifice was wholly eucharistical, or a thank-offering to God, for the blessings of his providence. Abel's was not only of the eucharist, but of the expiatory kind; and while it was an expression of gratitude for the blessings of Providence, it was typical of the offering of Christ, and expressive of his hope of redemption through him; but what made the chief difference between them was, that Cain presented his offering while his heart was whithheld, and without faith in Christ; so was a wicked one. Abel brought both his person and sacrifice, an offering to the Lord: he presented his oblation, and performed the other parts of worship, with faith in God, and the promised Saviour, and with sincerity, humility, and love. Thus God has respect to him and his offering; accepted first his person as justified, then his offering; but neither the person or offering of Cain found acceptance with God. Reader, mark the difference; by this, Abel speaks to thee; art thou in a state of acceptance with God by faith in Jesus? Is thy whole dependence for pardon and life on Christ crucified? Dost thou obey from a principle of love? Then thou shalt be blessed with righteous Abel here and for ever.
Thank-offerings paid to God
Still need the atoning blood;
Faith makes them with acceptance go,
As Cain and Abel here do show.
On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls by a statute for ever. The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: For it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Leviticus 16. 30, 31; 17. 11.
Our great day of atonement is that on which Christ shed his blood for us on the cross, and thereby made atonement for us. Now, if it was necessary for the Israelites to afflict their souls and chastise their bodies, on the great day of atonement, how much more ought we to pray for humility and repentance, as evidence of our interest in the propitiation made by Christ Jesus! And as they abstained from all labour on that day, when th high priest alone was employed, so should we abstain from all our sinful works, and particulary from all self-sufficiency of righteousness, and seek our salvation only in the meritorious blood of the atonement shed by our High Priest; for the life of our souls is in the blood of Jesus. O my Redeemer, may I with an afflicted soul, ever seek my atonement, life, and salvation, in thy blood and death; and may I lie down and rise up in a comfortable hope that I am pardoned through thy blood, thy Spirit bearing witness to my conscience.
Father God, who see'st in me
Only sin and misery;
See thine own annointed one!
Look on thy beloved Son!
Turn from me thy glorious eyes
To that bloody sacrifice.
To that full atonement made,
To that utmost ransom paid,
Hear his blood's prevailing cry;
Let thy mercy then reply:
Then, through him, the sinner see;
Then, in Jesus, look on me.
By the grace of God I am what I am. 1 Corithians 15. 10.
Be this my motto, both as to my natural and spiritual life:- how else could I have existed at all? Had not foreknowledge planned, and wisdom contrived, and power put every atom together, and fixed my scene of action, I had never been here. Nor is this God of grace less to be seen in every motion of my soul towards him; had not every spring been in him, this table on which I lean had felt as much bias toward him as I. The first check of conscience , the first thrill of fear, the first view of guilt, the first tear of pentitence, were all his own: the first drawings of the Spirit, the first sight of Christ, the first dawn of hope, were all his own; every succeeding step in the path of duty, every attainment in grace, every victory over the world and sin, every evvidence and token of the safety of my everlasting state, and every sweet interval of communion I have had with him, were still all his own; and the last labour of love, the last act of faith, and conquest over sin, death, and hell, together with an admission into eternal glory, must and shall be all his own likewise. The spring is love; the mean is Christ; the footing firm; the headstone "shall be brought forth with shouting, crying, Grace, grace unto it;" and grace shall be crowned with everlasting glory.
Whate'er I am, whate'er I hope,
Proceeds from bounty of rich grace;
Grace makes and holds my body up
An heals my spirit's sickly face.
The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again. 2 Corinthains 5. 14, 15.
If the love and power of Christ constrains us, we must needs be meditating and relying on him and his death. This will cut off all workings of our own, and make room for Christ to work everything in us, and through us. O Lord, may thy love on the cross fire my frozen heart also; that I may now begin to love and praise thee purely and fervently, and to offer my whole life up to thee as an entire sacrifice of love.
Raise your triumphant songs
To an immortal tune;
Let the wide earth resound the deeds
Celestial grace has done.
Sing how eternal love
Its chief beloved chose,
And bade him raise our wretched race
From ssin's destructive woes.
Now, sinners, dry your tears,
Let hopeless sorrows cease;
Bow to the sceptre of his love,
And take the proffered peace.
Lord, we obey thy call;
We lay an humble claim
To the salvation thou hast brought,
And love and praise thy name.
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, wither thou goest. Ecclesiastes 9. 10.
The business of life is to glorify God, and to work out our own salvation: all other concerns are subordinate to these; "the time is short:" as the tree falleth, so it lieth; and where death strikes down, there God lays out either for mercy or misery; so that I may compare it to the Red Sea; If I go in an Israelite, my landing shall be in glory, and my rejoicing and triumph, to see all my enemies dead upon the sea-shore; but if I go in an Egyptian, if I be on this side of the cloud, on this side of the covenant, and go in hardened among the troops of Pharaoh, justice shall return in it full strength, and an inundation of judgment shall overflow my soul for ever. Or I may compare death to the sleep of the ten virgins, of whom it is said, "They all slimbered and slept;" we shall all fall into this sleep. Now, if I lie down with the wise, I shall go in with the Bridegroom; but if I sleep with the foolish, without oil in my lamp, without grace in my soul, I have closed the gates of mercy upon me for ever. I see then this life is the time wherein I must go forth to meet the Lord:- this is the hour wherein I must do my work; and the day wherein I must be judged according to my works is at hand. I know not how soon I may fall into this sleep, therefore, Lord, grant that I may live every day in thy sight, as I desire to appear the last day in thy presence.
Awake, my sluggish soul,
The heavenly race to run;
Relieve and pray, and speed thy way,
For night is drawing on.
Sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14. 34.
Be not deceived, therefore, with false notions of faith. Where there is true faith, no sin has dominion. Sin will be ever stirring, often raging, and sometimes prevailing; but never reigning, where true faith is. A believer, through a strong and sudden temptation, may be captivated by sin, but he is no willing captive; he hates sin, and prays and wtaches against ii; and, as faith increases, his power over sin increases too. A man, having no feeling of the desperate wicknedness of his heart, may imagine he has faith enough; but being once convinced of that, he soon perceives that it is the hardest thing in the world to believe; it requires the same power by which Christ was raisded from the dead. St. Paul most emphatically describes it with six remarkable words. Ephesians 1. 19, 20. How then can any man think it an easy matter to believe? Oh the dreadful blindness and security which all the world runs into! May the Lord open their eyes!
Lord, how secure my conscience was,
And felt no inward dread!
I was alive without the law,
And thought my sins were dead.
My hopes of heaven were firm and bright,
But, since the precept came
With convincing pow'r and light,
I find how vile I am!
I'm like a helpless captive, sold
Under the power of sin;
I cannot do the good I would,
Nor keeping my conscience clean.
My God, I cry with every breath,
For thy kind pow'r to save,
To break the yoke of sin and death,
And thus redeem the slave.
At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched; and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and journeyed not. Numbers 9. 17-19.
Thus the spiritual Israelites; they ought not undertake anything from their own will, lest confusion and disappointment should encompass every path. The unconverted are full of their own will, how they should succeed? They are bewildered here, and run into perdition eternally.Sometimes the faithful may, with good a design, when they are engaged in a good work, outrun the will of God, and not wait for his counsel. And yet the Israelites journeyed not,thought the cloud tarried many days, and they might imagine they were losing time on their journey. O God, grant that in all things, even in my best works, I may be guided by thine eyes, and wait for thy counsel with a resigned temper! May I speak or be silent, work or rest, when, and as thou wilt! then shall my ways be blest, and thou wilt never leave or foresake me.
My God, the steps of pious men
Are order'd by thy will;
Though they should fall, they rise again,-
Thy hand supports them still.
I chose the path of heav'nly truth,
And God inspired my choice;
Not all the wealth of all the earth
Could make me so rejoice.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. John 1. 4.
Whatever notional knowledge men may have of Divine truths; as they are docrinally proposed in the Scripture; yet if they know them not in their respect unto the person of Christ, as the foundation of the counsels of God; if they discern not how they proceed from him, and centre in him, they will bring no saving spiritual light unto their understandinga: for all spiritual life and light is in him, and from him alone. The difference between believers and unbelievers, as to knowledge, is not so much in the matter of their knowledge as in their manner of knowing. Unbelievers, some of them, may know more, and be able to say more of God, his pperfections, and will, than many believers; but they nothing as they ought, nothing in a right manner, nothing spiritually and saving, nothing with a holy heavenly light. The excellency of a believer is not they he hath large apprehensions of things, but what he doth apprehend, which may, perhaps, be very little, he sees in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming light. And this is that whichgives us communion with God, and not prying thoughts, or curious raised notions. In this knowledge, Lord, give me to increase every day!
Dear Lord, annoint my head and heart,
And light and life bestow on me,
Light that will gospel truth impart;
And life to make me live to thee.
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not yo please ourselves. Romans 15. 1.
Considering thy self, lest thou also be tempted. Galatians 6. 1.
Who art thou that judgest another man's servant. Romans 14. 4.
Extraordinary quickenings and strengthenings being often followed by perculiar temptations, conflicts, and sufferings, require a particular watchfulness, if we would be earnest not to provake the Lord to visit us with sore punishments for our carelessness. Fear, therefore, rejoice withtrembling, and, as a needful means tos ecure thyself from falling, temper thy joy with true humility and gentleness towards the faults of others. Be never so high-minded, O man, at the miscarriages of others, so as to think thou wouldst not do so, should it happen to be thy case; for, if God hold thee up himself, thou wilt surely make greater mistakes. Therefore, thou hadst not better look upon others, but upon thyself; and fear of falling, be continually watchful in prayer. A great manywould not have fallen so deep had they been truly humble, and more charitable in judging of others. He that exalteth himself above others, and does not bear with the weak, is sometimes humbled and debased under the very weakest of all. Brear, therefore, since God bears with thee; and he that bears most with others shows the greatest strength.
Jesus Lord, we look to Thee;
Let us in thy name agree;
Each to each unite, endear,
Come and spread thy banner here.
Make us of one heart and mind,
Courteous, pitiful, and kind;
Lowly, meek in thought and word,
Altogether like our Lord.
Thou art my rock and fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me. Psalm 31. 3.
The Seventeenth of March.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplication will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel. Jeremiah 31. 9.
He that comes in this manner will certainly be led of God. Now, O Lord, I am blind, and heartily desire also to be directed by thee alone in all my ways ans steps, in great and little things. Suffer me never to follow my own spirit and natural inclinations, whatever good appearance they may have. Be pleased to cross them continually, whenever they are contrary to they will. Often I have been deceived by false appearances already; my zeal has not always been according to knowledge; I have put my natural passions in the place thereof, and thought I was contending for the faith once delivered tothe saints, and have afterwards found it no better than the effects of a part spirit. Be then a father to me, O Lord, and instruct thy waiting child in al necessary truths, and lead me in all thy rightoeus ways.
Thou art my portion, O my God,
And Christ my living way;
Incline my heart to keep thy word,
And on my Christ to stay.
But if I run beside thy paths,
In mercy stop my race;
And turn my feet to thy commands,
And heal me by thy grace.
I would be always wholly thine;
Oh save thy seravant, Lord!
Thou art my shield, my hiding place,
My hope is in thy word.
Thou hast inclined this heart of mine
Thy statutes to fulfil;
And thus, till mortal life shall end,
Would I perform thy will.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26. 3, 4.
Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me. Chapter 27. 5.
To enjoy an undisturbed peace, great care must be taken that we do not look and depend upon anything in ourselves, since all is but imperfect, and ever will be so. We are to trust only in the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world, to feed our souls continually in the gospel of peace, and be ever seeking him diligent prayer, watchtful, faithful, quiet, and humble: for we never lose anything of our peace, except it is stolen by some pride, or other unguarded affections.
Hence from my soul, sad thoughts, begone,
And leave me to my joys;
My tongue shall triumph in my God,
And make a joyful noise.
Darkness and doubt have veil'd my mind,
And drown'd my head in tears;
Till sov'reign grace, with shining rays,
Dispell'd my gloomy fears.
Oh waht immortal joys I felt,
And raptures all divine,
When Jesus told me I was his,
And my beloved mine!
In vain the tempter frights my soul,
And breaks my peace in vain:
One glimpse, dear Saviour, of thy face,
Revives my joys again.
Thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of hosts is is name. The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs of everlasting joy upon their heads. Isaiah 54. 5; 35. 10.
When Cyrus took the king of Armenia, and his son Tigranes, and their wives and children, prisoners, and upon their humble submission, beyond all hope, gave them liberty and their lives,- in their return home as they were all commending Cyrus - some of his personage, some of his power, some of his clemency, Tigranes asked his wife, What thinkest thou of Cyrus? is he not a comely and a proper man, of a majestic presence?" "Truly," said she, "I know not what manner of man he is, I never looked upon him." "Why," said he, where were thine eyes all the while? upon whom didst thou look?" "I fixed mine eyes," said she, "all the while upon him (meaning her husband) who, in mine hearing, offered to Cyrus to lay down his life for my ransom." Thus if any question the devout soul, once indeed captivated by the world, but now enamoured of Christ her heavenly Bridegroom, whether she is not charmed with the riches, pleasure, and gaieties of the world? - her answer is, that her eyes and her heart are now fixed on a nobler object, even on Him who not only made an offer, like Tigranes, to die in her stead, but actually laid down his life to ransom her; and as her dear Bridegroom is now in heaven, her looks are after him, and she can esteem nothing on earth in comparison to him.
Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them. I am thy part and inheritance. Numbers 18. 20.
Whoever loves and possesses the Lord Jesus, finds unspeakably more dlight, honour, and riches in him, than in all other things. Then is all willingly denied for his sake, and this denial springs from faith. Now, O Lord, thou art the all I need to make me happy, the only inheritance that can supply my every want, and to draw near to thee is my greatest joy. I desire to love thee evermore, and to show that love by keeping thy commandments; and I pray that a sweet sense of thy love to me may become my daily portion and my only bosom-treasure.
Beset with snares on ev'ry hand,
In life's uncertain path I stand;
Saviour Divine, diffuse thy light,
To guide my doubtful footstepe right.
Engage this roving, trech'rous heart,
Great God, to chose the better part;
To scorn the triffles of a day,
For joys that none can take away.
For let the wildest storms arise,
Let tempests mingle earth and skies;
No fatal shipwreck shall I fear,
But let all my treasures with me bear.
If then, my Jesus, still art nigh,
Cheerful I live, and cheerful I die;
Secure, when mortal comforts flee,
To find ten thosand worlds in thee.
Likewise the Spirit helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us. Romans 8. 26.
God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth. God hath many worshippers on particular occasions who cannot be called spiritual worshippers. Take, for instance, the prayers of wicked men under their conviction, or fears, troubles, and dangers, and the prayers of believers:- The former is merely an outcry that distressed nature makes to the God of it, and as such alone it considers him; but the other is the voice of the Spirit of adoption, addressing itself to the hearts of believers unto God as a father. Woe to professors of the gospel, who shall be seduced to believe that all they have to do with God consists in their attendance upon moral virtue; it is fit for tham so to do, who, being weary of Christianity, have a mind to turn Pagans; but "our fellowship is with the Father abd his Son Jesus Christ," under the promised working and intercession of the Spirit, for by them alone are thr love of the Father, and the fruits of the meditation of the Son communicated unto us, without which we have no interest or comfort in them; and by the influence of the Spirit alone we are enabled to amke any acceptable returns of obedience to God. To exclude the interanl operations of the Holy Ghost is to destroy the gospel.
The Twenty First of March.
Spirit of wisdom, grace, and power,
Of prayer and faith the quick'ning spring,
With Father, Son, we Thee adore,
And holy, holy, holy sing.
Every man that striveth for mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain an corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. 1 Corithians 9. 25.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things. Revelations 21. 7.
To be only an almost Christian is a very hard thing, but to be a Christian altogether makes all easy and pleasant, and such as desire to have the whole of Christ, his whole salvation and all that is his, must needs give themselves up to him, not only in part, but wholly, according to that fundamental and reasonable rule, "All for all;" and, as far as we deny him anything, we make ourselves unhappy; but the more we are resigned to him, the more we are fit to enjoy him and his spiritual blessings.
Many would sooner be persuaded to follow Christ if it was allowed to serve him by halves, and reserve some things for ourselves. But what could that profit them? Christ will not be bargained with: and nothing is more dangerous than dividing our hrearts between him and the world, and waiting from time to time for a more convenient season to break through. Thus you may live many years, and be neither hot nor cold; and so at last be spewed out of our Lord's mouth. Consider this well, O ye double-minded, lukewarm souls! Christianity requires great striving and overcoming all things, even our most favourite and darling lusts. Rouse, therefore, thy drowsy heart - spare thyself no longer rise above the trifles of the world, fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called.
Take away my darling sin,
Make me willing to be clean;
Make me willing to receive
What thy goodness waits to give.
Force me, Lord, with all to part,
Tear all idols from my heart;
Let thy power on me be shown,
Take away the heart of stone.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 13. 34.
All the commandments of God are commandments of love, tending to our real good and great happiness: far from being grevious to those who have faith and love, the practice thereof is life and peace. The world might think it is a grievious burden; but this is a great mistake indeed. Sin is grievious. It is hatred, envy, anger, revenge, pride, there are nothing but torment and slavery; but in love there is a sweet rest and pleasure. Thus a sinner always punishes himself, and is robbed of great peace and blessing, by trangressing the commandments of God.
The Twenty Third of March.
Saviour, look down with pitying eyes,
Our jarring wills control;
Let cordial, kind affections rise,
And harmonize the soul.
Subdue in us the carnal mind,
Its enmity destroy;
With cords of love th' old Adam bind,
And melt him into joy.
Us into closest union draw,
And in our inward parts
Let kindness sweetly write her law
Let love command our hearts.
One thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10. 42.
We must not pretend to serve God with only going to church, and doing other outward acts of devotion; whilst we are dead and cold, our religion is in vain. Who first, by faith, seeks grace from the words of Christ, like Mary, is served by Christ; and this constrains him to serve Christ and his neighbour readily again. It is almost impossible for such to go in haughtiness, envy, hatred, and disobedience. Grace and faith will resist it, and make them lowly, gentle, willing, obedient, active, without relying on any works of their own. He that obtains Christ, the one thing needful, receives with him all the rest, and has no more need to be troubled about many things; he being our all, we may always live happily; whereas, the children of the world must always be cummbered and divided between fears and hopes about their fate. In vainty we shall never find this good part; neither is there any salvation in the works of the law. Faith alone takes hold of it; and whoever withdraws his heart and senses from the noise and bustle of this world, who quietly looks for salvation through the blood and righeousness of Christ, will certainly find it his better part.
The one thing needful, that good part
That Mary chose with all her heart,
I would pursue with heart and mind,
And seek, unwearied, till I find.
O Lord, my God, to thee I pray,
Teach me to know and find the way,
How I may have my sins forgiv'n,
And safe and surely get to heaven.
Hidden in Christ the treasure lies,
That goodly pearl of so great price;
No other way but Christ there is,
To endless happiness and bliss.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51. 7. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. verse 9. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1. 18. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. Chapter 44. 22.
We must not keep away from Christ on account of our stumblings and manifold faults. This would cast us under the law again, and bind us under condemnation; but we should humble ourselves directly before God, and seek earnestly for pardon through the blood of Christ.
The longer we delay this, the worse our cause will grow, and the sooner it is done, the sooner we shall have forgiveness. The Lord not imputing those sins to us which are sincerely repented of, our soul returns to its rest again; and, instead of falling into carnal insecurity (as some may think), it shall rather strengthen our faith, and make us more watchful. Hasten, therefore and come as soon and as well as thou canst. He will receive thee, if thou canst but creep.
The Twenty Fifth of March.
O Lord, I fall before thy face;
My only refuge is thy face:
Nor bleeding beast, nor flood, nor sea,
Can wash the dismal stain away.
Jesus, my God, thy blood alone
Hath power sufficient to atone;
Thy blood can make me white as snow
No Jewish types could cleanse me so.
Deliver us from evil. Matthew 6. 13.
Divine Answer: Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. Isaiah 43. 1, 2. Christ hath, by his own blood, entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9. 12.
This precious redemption is the foundation of our present deliverance, and will finally produce an everlasting deliverance from all evil. He who loathes and detests not only the evil of punishment, but of sin itself, and consequently pants after Jesus, both of his love and his likenesss, such an one has faith already, and sin has lost its dominion over him. And though he may be tempted with it severely, yet he is under the law no more; for the reigning power of sin being broke, the law has lost its condemning power also; we are delivered from the power of the evil one, and we may be sure of continual, nay, eternal redemption. We often may feel the evil, but, by prayer and watchfulness, be as often delivered from it also.
Thy solemn vows are on me, Lord;
Thou shalt receive my praise;
I'll sing, "How faithful is thy word!
How righteous all thy ways!"
Thou hast secured my soul from death,
Oh set thy pris'ner free,
That heart and hand, and life and death
May be employ'd for thee.
Stir up the gift of God which is in thee. 2 Timothy 1. 6; 2 Samuel 7. 18, 28.
How can this be done? Answer: By looking as well upon thy own great poverty and wants, as upon the riches of grace which are in Christ for thee, and so drawing near to God through him in faith; but it is not enough to do this once for all, or now and then only. It is to be thy daily work. One day's omission may greatly hurt thy soul; especially the morning hours are very proper for this purpose. These must directly be laid hold on to converse with God in prayer, before we meddle with anything else in our business, though ever so needful and important, for fear of being entangled and distracted, perhaps, the whole day; and to gather the whole strength, draw as near to Christ as possible, and even wrestle with him, as if it were the last time. Pour out thy whole heart before him - not giving over too soon; but be instant in thy supplication, at least with inward continual groaning till thy heart burn within thee, and thou feel the quickening influence of his grace and Spirit. Then great care is to be taken to preserve this blessing and strength in a quiet and well-composed mind, examine thyself frequently, especially at nights, how the day has been spent.
The Twenty Seventh of March.
I'll lift up my hands, I'll raise my voice,
While I have breath to pray or praise;
This work shall make my heart rejoice,
And spend the remnant of my days.
For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. Hebrews 5. 13.
The apostle, with some severity of expression, tells the Hebrews, or converted Jews, to whom he wrote, that instead of being capable of strong meat, or attaining to the pefection of Christian doctrine and being skilful in the way of righteousness, they chose to continue babes in knowledge; and, like children, had all their work to begin again. It is, hterefore, a matter of great importance to know what that word of righeousness is in which they were unskilful, not having their senses exercised to discern between good and evil, truth and error.Let it only be observed, that they were looking back to the law, and consequently in danger of returning to it for justification, and thus falling from the doctrine of grace. The design of the epistle was to keep them stedfast in the faith; and it will appear, at once, that the righteousness which they were ignorant of, or ready to reject, is that of Christ, "who, by one offering," the finishing act of his obedience, hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified," Hebrews 10. 14. How many at all times, who have the name and appearance of well grown Christians are jsut such babes as the Hebrews were, and have the same need to be told that tehy are unskilful inthe word,reason, or ground, of a justifying righteousness, and exhorted to go to perfection in Christian doctrine, as well as to further degrees of Christian holiness.
Unskilful though I am, O Lord,
A babe in knowledge yet,
I sip the milk of thy sweet word,
But ask for stronger meat.
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power. ! Thessalonians 1. 5.
By the gospel, the Son of God and Divine truths are revealed to us; and by the Spirit they are revealed to us. External revelation by the word, and internal by the Spirit, are both necessary for salvation. Though Pau; was separated fro his mother's womb to be called by the grace of God, yet he had not an inward revelation of Jesus Christ in his heart, till he heard the external word of Christ in his ear, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Acts 9. 4. Hence, learn to prize both the outward testimony of the word, and the inward testimony of the Spirit. The gospel is a revelation of Jesus Christ, without which we could never have know that our sins are atoned for by the blood, our persons justified by the righteousness, and our souls everlastingly saved by the work of Christ; but is this knowledge all that is necessary to salvation? No; persons may attain a notion of these things in the head, and understand somewhat of them, and yet the heart be without precious faith in Christ, destitute of the love of Christ, and of any saving faith in him. Professor, look well to it; many have said, "Lord, Lord," and have heard Christ preached in the streets, who little expected to meet with this rebuff from him, "I know not whence ye are; depart, ye workers of iniquity!" Many heard the gospel preached in Thessalonica; but they alone were blessed to whom it came "in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance."
The Twenty Ninth of March.
The gospel is like sun and shower,
If once the Spirit seals the word;
It comes with truth, and come with power,
And will both light and life afford.
To reveal his Son in me. Galatians 1. 16.
From hence begins the spiritual life - a life proceeding from God, and holding communion with God, and tending to the glory of God; and honour and hapiness of our souls ariseth from this revealing of Christ in us. Oh for the reviving comfort of this, while we consider it! To reveal Christ to in us is to make such a clear discovery of the matchless charms and glory of his person to our souls as we never saw before; so that our hearts are enamoured with him, we choose him, love him, delight in him, and cleave to him in all his offices and characters; for, by the eye of the soul, we then behold his glory - the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth to us miserable sinners; hence, he is the only beloved of our souls. Without this revelation of Jesus Christ in us, alas! what is all our outward profession? No more than mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery> Omy soul! O my dear friends! be not content to live without a constant revelation of Christ to our souls; this makes the conscience peaceful, the heart heavenly, and the soul happy. This inspires love, subdues lust, captivates the affections, makes the whole man happy in God, and creates heaven in the soul. If Christ be within the heart, all will be right and well without in life. If you believe in Christ as revealed in the word, this blessed promise is for you "I will manifest myself to him." John 14. 21.
Great God, thy Scriptures will impart
The Saviour to my list'ning ear;
Yet, oh, reveal him in my heart,
And let me feel his presence there.
The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1. 7.
Whatever we do ourselves, in answer to our convictions, is a covering, not a cleansing; and if we die in this condition, unwashed, uncleansed, unpurified, it is utterly impossible, that we should be admitted into the blessed presence of the Holy God. Revelations 21. 27. Let no man deceive thee with vain words. It is not the doing of a few good works, it is not an outward profession of religion, that will give you an access with joy unto God. Unless you are washed from your actual transgressions in the blood of Christ, and cleansed form the pollution of your nature by the Spirit of God, you shall not inherit the kingdom of God; yea, without this washing you will be a horrible sight unto saints and angels, to yourselves, and to one another, when the shame of your nakedness shall be made to appear. If, therefore, you would not perish, and that eternally, if you would not perish as base, defiled creatures, an abhorring unto all flesh; then, when your pride, and your wealth, and your beauty, abd your ornaments, and your duties, will stand you in no stead, look out betimes after that only way of purifying and cleansing your souls which God hath ordained: "Without shedding of blood is no remission." Hebrews 9. 22. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." "Ye were redeemed not with corruptible things, - but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot." 1 Peter 1. 18, 19.
The Thirty First of March.
No works of our, the most and best,
Can wash a conscience clean;
The blood of Christ, our great High Priest,
Will only cleanse from sin.