« AnteriorContinuar »
man, He admits man, so reconciled, to the high privilege of mental intercourse and communion with Him, i. e., they who have attained to the belief that the blood of Christ, as a propitiatory victim, blots out human transgression, do realize, as the blessing consequent on pardon and reconciliation, a friendly approach to God, so as to commune with Him in acts of intelligent worship and in prayer. The direction of the mind to God is not an inert, formal, and useless service. It is a blessed and satisfying reality. "We have access to God," says St. Paul, "through Christ, by one Spirit." And again, we have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." And this is our actual experience if we are Christians, that prayer is real communion with God. When we approach God thus, in His Son's name, we become sensible that we are not occupied about a mere figment of the imagination, but that we are actually communicating with the great God of the universe, the benevolent Father of our spirits, and the Guardian of our interests. And whatever we have seen Jesus Christ to be in His life on earth, as merciful and gracious, such we regard that mysterious immensity of power, and wisdom, and goodness, revealed to us through Him. Jesus, the friend of sinners, is the development to us of the mind of God; and the communion, therefore, of the believing soul with God acquires all that openness, unreservedness, and confidence which the benevolence of Jesus inspires; and an entire admission and development
of the evils and wants of the soul, which becomes its relation to Him who knoweth all things, and which could not possibly admit the intrusion of another mind.
3. We have the consciousness of God's providential government and care. Inspired Scripture tells us what God is. The believing acceptance of that declaration brings us into direct and real intercourse with the Divine mind, and then we gradually acquire a distinct and intelligent perception of His providential dealings towards us; so that those events which to an unbelieving mind appear to be casual and fortuitous, are clearly traceable in their connexion with the state of the soul, with its moral consciousness in the sight of God, and with the secrets of this intercourse and its requisite in prayer. A real Christian can thus trace God's dealings with him. He can tell when God in His providence is restraining, correcting, or encouraging; we can see a rational bearing of His appointments upon our character, and its defects, weaknesses, or excesses; so that the discipline of an earthly parent, as adapted to what he knows of his child, is not more evident or intelligible than is the discipline of God's providence to His people. He gives, or He withholds, just as is good for us. He marks out the bounds of our habitations. raises up, or He brings low; and all this has a manifest and interesting connexion with the facts and the character of our secret intercourse with God. Whatever we know of those secret workings of our mind, on which no other eye rests but that of the Eternal, we find the events of life falling out in marvellous accordance with them, and sometimes the most extraordinary turnings and in
THE LORD THE PORTION OF HIS PEOPLE.
terpositions occurring either for our relief, or for our salutary discomfiture and disappointment; and in all this, we have, without doubting, the hand of the unseen Sovereign to whom a gracious access has been given through Christ.
Such is the christian knowledge of God; and it is most convincing, so that he who has it, and honestly and properly cultivates it, can say, assuredly, that he has not followed a cunningly devised fable, but, that God, in the glory of His holiness, and His mercy in the manifested mystery of the human soul's redemption, is the most satisfying reality that he has found. In a world of fleeting changing shadows, this is the only substantial resting-place.
Then observe, secondly, that there is in the Christian an evidence, acceptance, and choice of God, as the true and satisfying choice of the soul. Each man has his preferred objects, to which he devotes himself, in the expectation of deriving happiness from them. We are formed to seek happiness, rest, fulness; to crave after enjoyment. And you will not find a single individual who has not his notion about it, and who is not practically and really devoting himself to something, out of which he thinks he can extract the most gratifying portion of good. It is lamentable to think how debased some minds are in this respect, and to what mean and muddy channels they will stoop to drink. That is not, however, now our object; we merely make the remark, with a view to the fact before us, that as other men have made their choice, -whether wise or foolish, elevating or degrading, and likely to be successful or ruinous,—the Christian has in the same way made choice of God as the
source of his happiness. "Thou art my portion, O Lord." Yes, if we are Christians, we have looked with calm and rational deliberation on the whole range of things; all that the visible world numbers; and all in which a fertile and brilliant imagination can indulge itself; and we have found that there is nothing in facts or fiction which presents such prospects of solid and satisfying joy, either in the next world or in this, as the revelation of our Creator, through Christ Jesus, as a reconciled God.
Even abstractedly considered, this is wise; for God, who made and governs all things, is infinitely superior to everything else, for He has all things in His hand, and can effectually overrule them all as seemeth best to His godly wisdom. Life and death, the whole range of the things of time or the things of eternity, are wholly subservient to His bidding. This is essential to the idea of God; therefore if we have found the knowledge of God; if we have a way by which we can know Him and devote ourselves to Him; (and of this there is no question, for the Christian's practical experience is convincing;) then it were madness to do any other than cordially to devote the soul to His service. But the Christian's choice is made on something more than the mere abstract grounds; it is made on actual experience. For as there is unquestionably an evil bias in the soul, leading it powerfully away from God, so it has pleased God to disclose Himself, and to offer Himself to our attention in a way peculiarly suited to our needs; and our choice therefore of God for our portion, is founded on the experience of the rich suitability and practical efficiency of the provision of grace to our wants. We find that
God in Christ is able and willing to deliver us from all the evils by which we are oppressed; from sin, and all its melancholy consequences. In the midst of change, and uncertainty, and disappointment here, we find present repose in the actual sense and assurance of the love and favour of God. And amidst the darkness which naturally overhangs our lot, and closes in with impenetrable thickness over the grave, we find the knowledge of God as a reconciled Father opening to us the vision of eternal realities, and cheering us with the assured hope of perfect holiness and peace with Him for ever.
In proportion to the sincerity and ardour of our devotion to the means of christian knowledge, and of religious experience, these results are brought out more distinctly. We go with all our guilt, sinfulness, and impurity, to God, through Christ, and we find that we have in Christ an Advocate with the Father, and in God a sin-pardoning God. We go with all our sorrows, and trials, and discomfitures, to Him, and we find that He is able to deliver, and will deliver; that if we cast our burden upon the Lord, He will sustain us; that if we commit our way unto the Lord, He will direct our path. We go to Him when the fear of death has fallen upon us, and a horrible dread hath overwhelmed us; when nature recoils from dissolution, and from the sleep and corruption of the body under the sod; and we find that He is able to deliver us from our fears, and to cheer us with a hope full of immortality,―a hope that entereth into that within the vail. We go to Him under the practical conviction that earth is too scanty to meet and satisfy the natural cravings of the soul, and in the increasing
knowledge of God, the increasing discovery of His love, and the peace, and repose, and joy, which He pours through faith into the soul, we have a perpetual spring of delight, to which the unbelieving mind is a stranger. And it is as the result of this experience, that a Christian says to God, as an act of deliberate choice, "Thou art my portion, O Lord."
There is something desolate indeed in the state of a rational creature, broken off from intercourse with the Great Being who made him : and such is man in his fallen state. It is a forced and unnatural state; a state of punishment, of exile, of alienation. The Christian has felt this. His heart has yearned for a better country; it has longed for home. 'They seek," says St. Paul," a better country, even a heavenly." And having once really known the happiness of that rest which remaineth for the people of God; that gracious, perpetual sabbath of repose upon God's covenanted and manifested love; he desires this supremely; and whatever either delusive imagination or corrupt nature may put into the opposite scale, cannot weigh against it. "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee." This is the true language of the awakened and enlightened heart; and though there may be struggles, and difficulties, and conflicts, and occasional failures and inconsistencies, yet when God has spoken in the heart, the choice is made. The language of David is the language of every true believer's heart: "I cried unto the Lord; I said thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.” It is a real preference of the knowledge, love, and worship of God, to everything else, expressed sincerely to
THE LORD THE PORTION OF HIS PEOPLE.
God, in communion with Him, and openly and unreservedly expressed before men; and being not a mere pretence, or a scenic exhibition got up for effect, but the deep-seated conviction of the soul, in that solitary depth fathomed only by God, and where there is no hypocrisy.
Then, thirdly, notice the effect produced on the character and conduct. Such a deliberate and hearty choice of God as the portion of the soul, necessarily has a powerful and manifest influence. Whatever choice we make of an object to which we look for happiness,—whether it be fame and notoriety, wealth, or sensual pleasure, or any mixture of these different ingredients in any walk of life,-it colours and influences the whole of a man's doings. And so it is with the chosen of God. If we have really truly felt that the enjoyment of God, both here and hereafter, is the essence of true happiness; and that for this every thing else should be held subservient, and nothing admitted to occupy the attention that is found practically to interfere with this one great object; then it cannot be, but that all those habits in which we formerly indulged, when God was unknown and disregarded, must undergo a very material change. If Adam had always felt the will of God supremely valuable, he never would have declined to his own, and criminally set up his independent authority; and if, after he rebelled, he was mercifully led again to see the infinite goodness of God, and the necessary dependence of His creature on Him for happiness, then that haughty and miserable independence which he had sought to establish, would have given way, and, renouncing the impious thought of being a God himself, he would be content to
take again the submissive portion of a helpless and dependent creature, and to take God for his portion. And this change, which we state hypothetically in his case, because we do not know his history, must be a reality in every one of us, who is brought, through the revelation of God's redeeming mercy in Christ Jesus, again submissively to acknowledge that our happiness is in God, and not in ourselves. This is the crisis of the fate of the human soul, the end of its wanderings; like the dove, it has returned to the ark.
One manifest effect, therefore, of this choice is, the termination of all that restlessness, which arises out of the unsatisfied cravings of a selfish nature. Look through the world, and you find the great mass of men all restlessly on the move, seeking for something, but they hardly know what. This world is not their rest, but they are trying to make it so. They are seeking their own honour and aggrandizement, and not the honour that cometh from God. Let us look into our own hearts, in their natural propensities and workings, and we will find the same thing there. But if we have exchanged a finite for an infinite object; if we have turned from self and from vanity, to Him, who has a Maker's, and a Monarch's, and a Father's, and a Redeemer's claim to the heart; then this restlessness subsides; the wicked and troubled waters of human passion become still; we have found One on whom the soul can repose with confidence; on whose fulness it can feed without satiety, and in whose excellencies it may delight without excess.
The calm and quiet of the christian mind, is one of the characteristic features of a sound, and safe, and sanctifying orthodoxy. The religion that
leaves a man as restless and as selfseeking as it found him, has some defect in it. It is cankered at the root.
Another effect of this choice is, the diligent and steady seeking for the increasing manifestation of God's favour. It is the peaceful discovery of God to the mind, that is now its happiness; and this may be communicated to an inconceivable, to an infinite extent. For this communion, as superior to all other blessings, the soul waits and pleads. The writer of the psalm says, "I entreated thy favour with my whole heart; be merciful unto me, according to thy word." And such must be the Christian's habit; he cannot, in his present contracted experience, amidst the shadows of a life of faith, know all that he would wish to know of infinite goodness, or enjoy all that nearness of communion with the source of blessing that he has learned to desire. If, therefore, God is our portion, then, as far as we have realized it, we are enjoying it now, and finding subordinate happiness in friendly and filial intercourse with Him. And, besides this, as the son, while he is under tutors and governors, looks forward to the full admission to the privileges of the inheritance, so do we calculate upon a time of far more elevated enjoyment: we wait for the full "manifestation of the sons of God," the redemption of the body, and the complete emancipation of the soul.
And a third effect of this choice is, an effectual struggle for obedience. If God is my portion, obedience is my delight. There is a great deal of modern theology, which aims at drowning these two ideas, and allowing the professing Christian the privilege to sin, as well as the privilege to be
saved. But we must not deceive ourselves; God is not our portion, unless goodness becomes our element. We do not love Him, nor prefer Him, whose will we habitually contradict. The Psalmist says, "Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy words. . . . I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.... I am a companion of all them that fear thee." Now here are the natural and legitimate evidences of a preference; we can understand in such a case the sincerity of such a declaration, "Thou art my portion." God is not a mere name, nor a mere dispenser of privilege, but a ruling power;-ruling in holiness, searching the heart and trying the reins, and making His creature's happiness to run parallel with his duty; and all the richest mercy of His system of redemption, is the agency by which He raises the degraded sinner to holiness again, and, restraining all the excessive tendencies which sprung into being at his first rebellion, sets him free again to serve with all filial affection his compassionate and redeeming Lord.
Whatever some may say, therefore, of the anti-evangelical legality of evidences, and the darkening effect of looking for fruits, rest assured that the visible results of a sincere profession that God is our portion, will be found in the subduing of the feverish restlessness of our proud and selfish hearts; in the habitual yearning after nearer intercourse with God, and in the strenuous and victorious endeavour to do His will.
Let us then apply these statements to our individual case. Every man must judge for himself. If you make a christian profession, then you say,