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children. The oak is rooted stronger by the blast that shakes it. The more we see of the evil of sin, the pride and unbelief of our corrupt natures, and the subtle devices of Satan, so much more dear and precious shall we esteem the doctrines of free grace, and the finished salvation of Jesus. And we shall prove ourselves his true disciples, “ if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope, firm unto the end,” Heb. iii. 6.
APRIL 14.—He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.—Psalm cvi. 15.
When the sunshine of worldly ease, and a greater portion of the good things of this life than he was wont to enjoy, fell to the lot of that champion of Jesus, of blessed memory, Luther, it excited a holy fear and jealousy in his heart, which made him cry out. “Lord, I will not be put off with these things.” However pleasant and agreeable worldly prosperity may be to the flesh, yet indulging and pampering the body begets and feeds many disorders and humours, destructive to the health of the soul. The body, without exercise, loses its strength and vigour. Afflictions are the exercise of the soul; though dreaded, because grievous to the flesh, yet are they profitable to the spirit; or else, not one of God's dear children should know what a single trouble is; for they are all the allotments of covenant love. In our prayers, we too often imitate James and John, "we know not what we ask.” We ask amiss, and yet are ready to complain, that the Lord doth not answer us according to our desire; though the very thing we asked would have proved as a serpent, to bite and destroy us.
Oh, what patience doth our God and Father exercise towards the froward dispositions of his dear, but untoward children! It would be bad for the best of us, if we were our own providers. Let Peter have his rę.
quest, and Jesus shall not die; then Peter and every soul of man must have perished. It is our mercy, that the Lord sometimes answers prayers with denials; he most blesses us by denying our petitions. Saints long and pray to be entirely delivered from the body of sin; but though the Lord doth not take it away, yet he gives what is better, grace to subdue our corruptions; and withal, subdues pride, and keeps the soul dependent upon himself, which is best of all. Thy will, thy glory should ever set bounds to our petitions. The health and prosperity of the immortal soul is infinitely to be preferred to the happiness of the perishing body. Gay clothing, with empty pockets, and a lean, starving body, is a distressed condition. But, how much more deplorable, how awfully to be dreaded, the state of many professors! They have got what they eagerly sought, the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world. But alas! their precious souls are lean and starving. Can the comforts of a perishing world compensate the want of a sense of God's love, the reviving grace of our Lord Jesus, and the comforting fellowship of the Holy Ghost? In all our petitions, we should make the enjoyment of God our chief aim. For he says, “ Hearken diligently unto me, eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness," Isa. Iv. 2.
APRIL 15.—Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.- Luke xxiv. 45.
Though Jesus had captivated the heart, and drawn the affections of his disciples to himself, before his sufferings and death, yet they had very little knowledge in the mysteries of his kingdom, and the mystery of iniquity, which worked in them. They were but weak in understanding the holy scriptures. Hence arose their diffidence and suspicions concerning him. He left them scattered through fear and unbelief, and he
finds them full of unreasonable doubts and troubles. For this he reproves them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken !" But amidst all their weakness and ignorance, there was a sweet and secret confidence in their hearts. Jesus had apprehended them as prisoners of love, and they were kept by an invisible power, that they might apprehend that for which also they were apprehended of Christ. Though he made the hearts of two of his disciples “ burn within them,” yet there was more warmth than light, a transient heat of affections, but not a settled understanding of the scriptures. Thus it is with many of the lambs of the flock now. They have been taught by the Holy Ghost to call Jesus Lord. They feel some flashes of comfort, but they are oftener exercised with doubts, fears, jealousies, and surmises. But, as the Saviour hath loved and called them to himself, he will establish their hearts in faith. He not only warms the affections, but opens the understanding. Many mistake here; not the fire of our passions is to govern us, but our clear understanding the scriptures. By them our faith is strengthened, our judgment established, our love increased, our hearts comforted, our holiness promoted. Thus Jesus honoured the scriptures. So he gave his first resurrection-blessing to his weak disciples.
Jesus died for our sins, and rose again, according to the scriptures, 1 Cor. xv. 3. His whole work on earth was, to fulfil the scriptures. So he honoured them: and herein he has left disciples an example. Prize the word of truth, study it constantly, pray over it daily. By it the Spirit teacheth knowledge. The scriptures are the sword of the Spirit: Satan will fly before them, because they testify of Jesus. Here, then, is an evidence of a true disciple. Jesus hath opened his understanding to understand the scriptures. Hath the Lord thus blessed thee? Then thou seest Jesus to be the sum and substance of the scriptures, therefore wilt esteem them as thy companion, guide, and familiar friend. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope," Rom. xv. 4.
APRIL 16.—But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; to him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.-2 Pet. iii. 18.
Christian, know thy danger. Thou art ever liable to be led away by the error of the wicked one, to decline from the truth, and to fall away from thy steadfastness, in the faith of Jesus. Exhortations warn of this; they tend to quicken stronger exercises of faith and love, as a remedy against this: yea, through the influences of the Spirit, they cause new-born souls to increase with the increase of God: just as reviving showers of rain, and warm influences of the sun, cause the fruits of the earth to grow.
It behoves us to consider this : to wrestle with the God of all grace, lest we grow faint in our mind, our hands hang down, and our knees become feeble; that we may grow "strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. Behold the inseparable connection between grace and Jesus, knowledge and growth. There is no growth in grace, but by the knowledge of Jesus. The more thou growest up in thy Head, Christ, the more thou wilt grow out of hope in thyself, out of conceit with thyself, and with the self-righteously wicked.
To know and experience the grace of God in Christ, is the special mercy of poor sinners. To grow in the faith of free-grace truths, and in the knowledge of Christ's love, is our richest consolation, our highest joy. Hast thou tasted that the Lord is gracious ? In this consists thy present blessedness, peace, and joy. But alas! what is thy knowledge and experience, but like a drop of water to the vast ocean. Art thou hungering after more grace, thirsting after greater know
ledge of Jesus ? Verily thou shalt be filled, "filled with all the fulness of God.” It is the nature of grace, the property of this knowledge, to create an insatiable thirst in the soul after deeper experiences of it. Hence means of grace will be diligently used, the scriptures constantly searched, the gospel highly prized, the sincere milk of the word desired, and the influences of the Spirit implored. Why all this? that the soul may grow in the faith and love of Jesus; that the bud of grace may blossom, and bear ripe fruit to his glory. The smallest knowledge of Jesus shall increase, till the believing babe in Christ comes, “in the unity of the faith, and in the knowledge of the Son of God, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Pray mind the doxology in the text. Glory is due to God only. But it is here ascribed to our Saviour. Therefore, we safely and comfortably conclude, He is "over all, God blessed for ever. Amen," Rom. ix. 5.
APRIL 17.—Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.-1 Pet. ii. 25.
Scripture allusions continually remind us, "that salvation is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God, who showeth mercy.” Therefore, not unto us, not to our free will, but to thy free grace,
O Lord, be all the glory. Like that poor, silly creature, a sbeep, we naturally stray into all kind of danger, but are unapt to return of ourselves. We never should, unless the Shepherd sought us. “We have turned every one to his own way," have lost ourselves in the wilderness of sin, are wounded by the wolf of prey, blinded by pride, self-will, and self-righteousness. We delight in our distance from the good Shepherd. We please ourselves in feeding on carnal lusts and sensual vanities, while our poor souls are in a starving, perishing condition. Unparalleled love! the sheep's wounds