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[It may be, that at present your views of divine truth are but obscure; and that you have but little capacity to comprehend the deep things of God, and but little opportunity to investigate them. Yet I say to you, in the name of the Lord, that you shall be guided into all truth, as far as shall be necessary for the welfare of your soul; and that God's way shall be made so plain before your face, that, notwithstanding you be " a wayfaring man, and, in respect of human sciences, a fool, you shall not err thereina.” In particular, you shall have the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to you, as " the Way, the truth, and the life:” and,“ having received him into your hearts, you shall “ walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving . This is the very first step to which the teaching of Almighty God will lead you; as our Lord has said: “It is written in the prophets, All thy children shall be taught of God. Every one, therefore, that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” In the course of your pilgrimage many difficulties will arise, wherein you will need direction from above: but God engages that in all those emergencies“ you shall hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it; when you would otherwise be turning to the right hand or to the left d.” As the pillar and the cloud went before the Israelites throughout all their journeyings in the wilderness for forty years, till they arrived safe in the Promised Land, so will “God guide you by his counsel, till he has safely brought you to glorye."] 2. “ Your soul shall dwell at ease”.
[It may be that your former iniquities have been great and manifold; so that, unless God interposed in a more than ordinary way to support your soul, you would sink into despair. But “ where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound:” and he will say to you, as to the woman of old, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” “ Being justified by faith, you shall have peace with God;" and in your own conscience, even that "peace of God which passeth all understanding." It is possible, also, that you may be exposed to many trials and temptations, even such as without divine aid would utterly overwhelm you. But you shall “know in whom you have believed; and feel assured that He is able to keep that which you have committed to him",” and that “He will preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom.” Thus, as Peter, the very night before his intended execution, though bound with chains, and doomed to a cruel death, was sleeping as serenely as if no such
a Isai. xxxv. 8.
b Col. ii. 6, 7.
c John vi. 43.
event had awaited him, so shall “ your soul dwell at ease,” yea, " it shall be kept in perfect peace:" for, “ if God giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?”h
But, in the margin of our Bibles the sense of the original is more fully and literally expressed thus: “His soul shall lodge in goodness." What a rich and glorious idea is this! The Scriptures abound in expressions of this kind: Isaiah, commending the truths of the Gospel to us, says, “ Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness:” and David says, “ My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, whilst my mouth praiseth thee with joyful lips.”. So, in my text he tells us that the Believer's soul shall “ lodge in goodness.” Yes, verily, “God himself is the habitation" of them that fear him: his bosom is the place in which they are safely lodged, far beyond the reach of harm', and fondled with more than maternal tendernessk; insomuch that God himself
rejoices over them to do them good, and rests in his love, and joys over them with singing?.
Thus, my Brother (for I am speaking to that particular individual who feareth God), it shall be with thee in this world: and who shall describe thy lodging in the world above? Oh! the joys that await thee there! how passing all expression or conception! The kingdom, the glory, the felicity of God himself shall be thine, even thy portion, and thine inheritance, for ever and ever.] APPLICATION
Now will I pause; and, from addressing thee who fearest God, turn,
1. To the unhappy multitude, who fear him not
[Painful it is to make this distinction: but this distinction must be made. We are commanded to "separate the precious from the vilem." and if we forbear to do it, God will not: He will put "a difference between them that serve him and those who serve him not "." It cannot but be known to you, that the generality, even of the Christian world, have not, in truth, " the fear of God before their eyes.” Say, beloved, did not your own consciences attest, that, in
you at least, the marks of holy fear did not exist, or, not in such a degree as to identify you with the character described in my text? Whilst we spoke of those who reverenced the authority of God, and trembled at his displeasure, and made it the one object of their lives to do his will, were not many of you constrained to say, “ If this be the character of those who fear God, I am forced
8 Isai. xxvi. 3.
h Job xxxiv. 29.
i Ps. xci. 1, 9, 10. m Jer. xv. 19.
to confess that it does not belong to me?” Then, Brethren, by your own confession, you have no part in the promises annexed to that character. And, indeed, your own experience confirms this: for at this moment you cannot comprehend those mysteries of grace which are made clear to the believing soul. You have not that spiritual discernment, whereby alone you can understand and appreciate the things of the Spirit'. And, as for “your soul dwelling at ease,” you know nothing of it: the very thought of death and judgment is so appalling to you, that you can find no rest till you dismiss it from your mind. God himself tells us, that “ you are like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt; and that there is no peace to the wicked P.
Will you not, then, seek to fear God? Will you not entreat him to “put his fear into your hearts,” ere it be too late? I tremble at the thought of the lodging prepared for you. Oh! “ who can dwell with everlasting burnings ?” I
pray you, Brethren, realize in your minds the different states of the Rich Man and Lazarus; and “ labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you."]
2. To any one who, though really fearing God, does not yet experience the full comfort of it in his soul
[It may be that such an one is here present, even one who, because he feels not yet all the consolations of religion, is led to doubt its existence in his soul. We read of some in the primitive Church, who were “in heaviness through manifold temptations:" and, no doubt, there may be persons so circumstanced amongst ourselves at this time. But for such God has provided peculiar encouragement. He has stated the very case, and addressed appropriate counsel to the person under it: “ Who is among 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.” Do not imagine that God has forgotten his word, or that he will not fulfil it to you: for “ not one jot or tittle of it shall ever fail." “ Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” The corn that is sown in the earth does not rise up immediately: nor must you be discouraged, if you
have some time to wait before the harvest that is prepared for you appear,
“ The vision may tarry; but it is only for the time appointed of your God; and then it shall come, and shall not tarry?.” Only wait his leisure; and you shall find, in due season, that, “ in every nation under heaven, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness shall be accepted of him."] • 1 Cor. ii. 12, 14. p Isai. lvii. 20, 21. q Isai. 1. 10. r Hab. i.3.
THE SECRETS OF THE LORD.
you friends a.”
Ps. xxv. 14. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him;
and he will shew them his covenant. OF the condescension of God, mankind in general form very inadequate conceptions. His greatness is supposed to be such as not to admit of an attention to the trifling concerns of men: and because we stand at an infinite distance from him, the idea of familiar approximation to him is contemplated only as a fanatical and wild conceit. But God represents himself to us as a Father: and our blessed Lord says, “ Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth : but I have called
Now the Lord Jesus Christ was from eternity“ in the bosom of the Father",” and knoweth the Father as intimately and completely as the Father knoweth him: and all the Father's secrets he has made known to usd : so that we are treated by him, not with the reserve that is shewn to strangers, but with the confidence that is due to persons who are bound to him in the ties of the most endeared friendship. Under the Mosaic dispensation this holy familiarity indeed was but little known. The whole economy was of a servile nature ; none except the high priest having any immediate access to God; nor he, except on one day in the year; and then not without the blood of sacrifices. Yet, even under that dispensation, some were more highly favoured with divine communications; insomuch that Solomon
“ The secret of the Lord is with the righteous. Under the government of the Lord Jesus Christ, the legal distinctions are removed; and all true Christians possess the same privileges as the most favoured of God's servants : so that now it may be said, in reference to them all, without exception, “ The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant."
a John xv. 15. b John i. 18. d John xv. 15. before cited.
c John X. 15. Matt. xi. 27. e Prov. iii. 32.
In confirmation of this truth, I will endeavour to point out, I. Some of those secrets which God reveals to his
faithful people, The whole of the divine life is a secret, from the beginning to the end; and “the joys” arising from it are such as “the stranger intermeddleth not with.” But, to descend to particulars,
1. God gives them an insight into the great mystery of redemption
[This was “ a mystery hid from ages and generations," yea, “ hid in God from the foundation of the world':” but at last it was made known to the Church by Christ and his holy Apostles, that all God's saints might become acquainted with its. St. Paul, speaking of the great truths of the Gospel, says, “ It is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirith.” We must not, however, imagine, that because this mystery is revealed to the Church in the written word, we need no further revelation of it to our souls: for “ the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Notwithstanding, therefore, the Gospel revelation is so clear in itself, we still must "receive, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of Godi.” A speculative knowledge of the Gospel may, indeed, be acquired by human instruction : but a spiritual and experimental acquaintance with it, as “the wisdom of God and the power of God,” can be attained only through the teaching of God's Spirit: “ flesh and blood cannot reveal it unto us: it can be made known only by inspiration from the Fatherk. And that inspiration, blessed be his name! is given to many. Through his tender mercy, it may be said of many, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things!.” Whilst to some, who hear the Gospel, “ it is spoken, as it were, only in parables;" so that, in relation to the plainest truths of the Gospel, they are ready to exclaim, as Ezekiel's hearers did in reference to him, " Ah, Lord God! doth he not speak parables m?” to others“ it is given to know the mysteries of
f Rom. xvi. 25. Eph. iii. 5. & Eph. iii. 9. Col. i. 26, 27. h 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10. i 1 Cor. ii. 12, 14. k Matt. xvi. 17. il John ii. 20, 27.
m Ezek. xx. 49.