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rich blessing of the holy scriptures, uncorrupted by the fan«ies of the ungodly, and spoken and written by holy men of God, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. To these let us give iheed, for they are genuine and "*ble to make us wise unto salvation. PHILAGIOS.
On the Light of God's countenance.
JjContin. from vol. iv. page 478.]
What is meant by the light of God's countenance ? And what is imfilied in walking in the light of God's countenance?
THESE are scripture expressions, and tho' figurative, are highly significant. The metaphor is taken from a well known circumstance in human life, and applied to the Most High. As the affections of mankind are painted in their faces, by -which they express their favor or dislike, hence the index naturally and insensibly becomes -used to signify the thing indicated: so that by amanof a smiling, or of a frowning countenance, .we commonly mean a man who feels friendship and pleasure at heart, or one who is unfriendly and displeased. And because men by their countenances express their anger or love, hence it is that when attributed to God, who is said sometimes to lift up the light of his countenance upon his people, at other times to hide his face or countenance, it signifies either his grace and fator, or his anger and displeasure. These tv;o, therefore, seem to be the leading and principal ideas »xpressed by the fight of God's
countenance, and which perhi comprehend, and include all o ers, viz. sftiritual direction, instruction, and sfdritual comfi In the one view is signified t peculiar, gracious, and com]: cential regard, with which t beholds, approves and blesses covenant people, and in the o er, the blessed enjoyment God's love and favor, manifes by the graces and benefits wh he bestows.
With respect to walking in light of God's countenance, a nu ber of interesting particulars i be found contained in the s ject, as either expressed, clearly implied in the woi And
1. To walk in the light God's countenance implies liverance from- self-rightec ness, self-dependence, and k hopes. The character appe in every respect an exact c trast to that which is repress ed in the 50th of Isaiah," hold all ye that kindle a fire, 1 compass yourselves about v sparks; walk in the light your fire, and in the sparks 1 ye have 'kindled—this shall have of mine hand, ye shall down in sorrow." How. ci pletely is the picture here versed. This is perfectly scriptive of a self-righteous cl acter, who thinks, by the m of his own righteousness, tc tone fbr past sins, and rec mend himself to the favor acceptance of God. And this foundation he builds his i fident hope of heaven and « nal happiness, v
It is curious and instructii observe how carefully and p edly this passage is words distinguish this character 1 the one who walks in the 1 of God's countenance; and especially, to guard against the idea of hio having any, even the smallest degree of spiritual light—, or that his exercises are affectby any kind of special or supernatural divine agency—but that they are his own—congenial with his corrupt nature—the proper, genuine fruits of his own carnal heart. They kindle a fire, not God. They receive Iiq spiritual light from him. They compass themselves about with sparks. "Walk in the light of your fire" This is directly opposite to that of walking in the light ofGod's countenance. As opposite as darkness to light, or the nature of the sinner to the nature of God. The fire which they have kindled, signifies their own fancied goodness, and inherent moral Virtue, together with the sufficiency of their own natural reason and understanding. This is blown up by their blind imaginations and wicked desires.— At this fire they warm themselves, and derive their supplies of direction and strength. — Walking in the light of their own fire, means their practising in conformity with their own polluted consciences, misguided reasons, and corrupt inclinations. The sparks with which they compass themselves, are emitted from the fire they have enkindled, and in the light of which they walk, and are of the same nature. These are their good works which flow from hearts of pride, and opposition to God. With these they compass themselves on every side. They lay them thick around them, to guard their consciences from the conviction of truth, and the painful sensations »f gmrt. The contrast of char
acter is kept up throughout, not only in the description of their conduct, but of its consequence* and final issue. Instead of being justified, they are condemned—instead of being blessed, they are accursed, and instead of being received to glory, they will be crushed down to hell, and made the miserable monuments of God's eternal vengeance.— "This shall ye receive cf mine hand, saith the Lord, ye shall lie down in sorrow."
Such is the character, state and end of all self-righteous persons, and self-deceived hypocrites; and I have dwelt the longer upon it, as it is an entire contrast to the character in contemplation. Opposites viewed in connection, set off each other to better advantage, and in a clearer point of light. This is the end proposed. Let us now attend to the counterpart, and draw the opposite picture, by this rule, that whatever is essentially contrary and disagreeing to the character expressed by walking in the light of their own fire, essentially belongs to that character expressed by walking in the light of God's countenance. And we are led to see, that all those things which lie hidden, and undiscovered to the impenitent heart, are brought to view by the light of God's countenance, and the teachings of his Spirit. This is the nature cf light, to discover real objects, and not to conceal them. "All things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest, is light. Wherefore he saith awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give the light" (Eph. v. 13, i4J) Here the impenitent »inner is represented as both asleep and dead, and he must awake and arise from the dead before he can receive that light which Christ gives. It is not the sleeping nor the dead who can see. Destitute of spiritual life, they are ignorant of their own hearts, blind to their true characters, to the character of God, and the Saviour, and hence, elated with pride, they build high towering hopes upon the sandy foundation of their own righteousness and strength. But the true believer hath not so learned Christ, nor himself.— Truth discovers error. The light of Gcd's countenance doth not conceal men's corruptions and wickedness, but brings their inost secret abominations to view as in open day light, and shews the sinner to himself as a lost, guilty, helpless, and hell deserving creature. Saith the Psalmist, "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." A view of God ever gives us an "humblingsense of ourselves.—'' The soul that is spiritually enlightened, will freely own himself wholly in the wrong, and "God altogether right. He will voluntarily acknowledge his nature to be total enmity against God—that he never rendered any true obedience to his law— that in him, naturally dwelleth no good thing—that he can makeno atonement for the smallest of his past sins—can offer no justifying righteousness to Godthat he is absolutely dependent on free sovereign mercy, thro' the merits of Christ, and has no other foundation to pray for mercy, or hope for salvation.
Every thing called spiritual light, and affording .spiritual in
struction, teaches, and enforce these things as divine truth. I our former number, it was shew that God is a sun, and Chrh the light of the world—thi Christians from their relatio and moral likeness to him, ar also called the light of the worl —that the word of God is ligh and his commandment a lamp and his Gospel is, in the mos eminent sense, light, the mol glorious light that ever shon upon our dark and behighte world. And they all join t manifest these things and estat lish them as divinely true. Th Apostle Paul saith, "I was aliv without the law once ;" that i: he walked in the light of his ow fire, and compassed himself wit the sparks of his own kindling."But when the commandmei came sin revived, and I died. Here was a final end of all h legal hopes, and pharisaic; righteousness. He saw himse utterly lost, ruined and helples and that nothing short of the rig! teousness of Christ, and the an of God's free sovereign mere could save him. This is th glorious end and design of tr gospel, to exalt God, and humbl man, that no flesh should glor in his presence. To this truti all who walk in the light ( God's countenance will cheei fully subscribe. This has bee the creed of the Godly in a ages. And I am bold to sa; that there is not a real Chrii tian on earth, but what in th right understanding of , the; doctrines, will freely and joyfu ly acknowledge them, the wore of eternal life. They, whoi God justifies, do ever condem themselves, and in the same d( gree as we enjoy the light < Ged's countenance, we shall I filled with self loathing and abhorrence. These were the humbling views of Job, in the clear manifestations of God's glory and gracious presence.— "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." So the Prophet Habakkuk, " When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself." And the Apostle Paul: "This is a faithful saying, and 'worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief''
An anecdote related by Mr. Rutherford, is in point, and in the plain stile of that day manifests the true christian spirit, in a distinguishing point of view. David Dixon, was an eminendy pious Scotch divine, who flourished in the days of the high church persecution in Scotland, and through life was a laborious and successful minister of Christ. The good man lay upon his death bed, and being asked by a religious friend who was making him a parting visit, what was the present state of his mind, and his feelings and exercises in a view of the eternal world—by your faithfulness in the cause of Christ, we trust you have laid a foundation for great comfort in a dying hour :— he replied in these memorable words—I have gathered ufi all Vy works both good and bad, and thrown them down together in a heap before the Lord, and have run away from them all to Christ, and in him. I find sweet rest and peace.
Thus doth the soul who walks
Vol. V. No. I.
in the light of God's . counte« nance, see things in fheir true light. He sees and acknowledges the infinite holiness of the divine character, law and government. He is made acquainted with the pride and pollution of his own heart, and the vileness and guilt of his own character, with corresponding exercises of his affections. And by being thus happily prepared to receive the salvation of Christ, he becomes sweetly conformed to the methods of divine grace, as they are revealed in the glorious dispensation of the gospel.
2. They who walk in the light of God's countenance, do enjoy sweet peace, calmness and serenity of mind. This is peculiar to them. They only have true peace; and this necessarily arises from right apprehensions of the truth, and right exercises of heart towards God's character, government and grace. As to the wicked, who walk, by the light of their own fire, which is the same as total dakness, and whose hearts are unreconciled to God and his ways—opposed to his character and government, his law and his gospel—a they have no true peace or comfort, and it is naturally, absolutely, and forever impossible that they should have. All their attempts to climb up some other way to Heaven are vain and fruitless. They are actually opposing the only methods, and the eternal purposes of God's grace, resisting the arm of omnipotence, and as briars and thorns or stubble fully dry, they are setting themselves in battle array against the devouring flames. Their sensual pleasures are low and grovelling ; and embittered with remorse. Their
*xpectatipns from the creature ] are unanswered; theirdesires unsatisfied; their hopes are dashed Srith vexation, and terminate in disappointment. The divine determination is an insuperable and an eternal bar in the way of that happiness and enjoyment, they desire, and are anxiously seeking to obtain. They have, therefore, no rest, but are like the troubled sea whose waters continually cast up mire and dirt. f There is no peace, saith my God to the wicked.'' . But the blessed spul who is humbled and conformed to God, and walks in the. light of his countenance, is. delivered from this thraldom and wretchedness, this miserable state of vassalage and slavery to. his corruptions and lusts.i In an hearty submission to God, there is true peace—by humbling himself he is exalted—by giving all up, he enjoys all, and by dying to himself, he lives to God. The light of God's countenance not only shews him to himself, but shews him the glory of God, with a. transforming energy upon his! soul. It not only discovers to i him his spiritual weakness and wants, his sickness and wounds, j his wretchedness and guilt; but also his fullness and strength, his remedy and cure, his happiness and salvation, and sweetly applies' these precious benefits to his soul, in the pardon of sin, peace of conscience, and joy in. the Holy Ghost. In Christ he discovers an infinite fulness of all that he wants. Here is just such a Saviour as he needs, and just such a happiness as he desires. In him he enjoys sweet peace. Reconciled to God, heappears altogether rifjht—his character iminitely amiable, beauti
ful, glorious—all his ways judgment and truth—his Providence kind and gracious, and all his. government infinitely wise and good. His mind is enlarged, and he no longer thinks and acts upon the small, narrow scale of the selfish contracted mind. ' He embraces, iiiid contemplates ina general view, the eternal plan of divine grace, and by faith considers every creature, and every event, as being in their various ways designed to subserve the great and important end God hath in view in the creation and government of the world. In this view he considers every thing to be right, and wishes for no alteration, or that any thing should be in any respect different from. what it is. And what can disturb the peace and comfort of the soul possessed of these views, and in the full exercise of tins temper of mind I If God reign, he must be happy. "Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them." And we learn from sundry scriptures, that it is the light of God's countenance, which thus enlarges, enlightens, settles-and comforts the soul. Such was the benediction with which Aaron and his sons were directed to bless the. children of Israel (Numbers v. 24.) "The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." And in Psalm xxi. 6. "Thou hast made him most blessed forever—thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance." A contrast to this we. find in the 30th Psalm, " thou didst, hide thy face, and I waa