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third time, “Lovest thou me?” Surely it ought to be grief to loving disciples, to think they yet need this caution. But verily we all do. The most sanctified are yet in the flesh. And the flesh, with its affections. and lusts, is ever lusting and striving against the spirit. The holy, happy soul, who is set at liberty from sin, Satan, and the law in his conscience, is hereby liable to be brought again under bondage to the law, and thraldom to sin. Know thy danger; dread thine enemy. Yea, rather fear and love thy best Friend. Cry to him, Lord, keep me continually. Thou hast delivered my once captive soul from the power of the enemy; brought me out of the horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and ordered my goings, and put a new song in my mouth of praise to thee, my Jesus and my God, Psalm xl. 2, 3. Keep, Oh keep me, from the deceitful workings and carnal reasonings of my corrupt sinful self, the flesh! . What liberty are we called to? Not a perfect freedom from the being of sin; but a perfect deliverance from every curse of the law; from all the wrath of God denounced in the law; from the bondage of being under the law, to do anything to gain God's love, recommend us to his favour, or entitle us to his kingdom. All this liberty we are called into by the faith of Jesus. Oh, what a glorious liberty! freedom from all sin in the conscience; so to live upon Jesus as to consider ourselves in him, as perfectly free from all sin, entirely dead to it, and our conscience so cleansed by his blood, as to be easy and comfortable, as though we were innocent and never had sinned. Oh, this is heavenly liberty to new-born souls! This is daily to be prized, and enjoyed through the Spirit. But how base and ungrateful, ever to use, or rather abuse this liberty, as an occasion to the flesh? But the Lord's free-men are all in danger of this, through the vileness of their natures, the deceitfulness of their hearts, and the subtle devices of Satan; else Paul had not thus ad. dressed the brethren. The doctrines of grace, the love
of Jesus, and living on him by faith, lay the flesh under bondage and restraint. We cannot walk in the liberty of the Spirit, and yet fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Thou free-man of the Lord, “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made thee free,” Gal. v. 1.
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AUGUST 27.—I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him.—Isa. lvii. 18.
What a glorious declaration of free grace and absolute promise of mercy is this! not excited by the worthiness of the creature; but proceeding solely from the loving heart of a covenant God. Well might David say, “In thy word do I trust: I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.” The life of the soul is supported by God's word. It is the object of faith, the life of hope, and excites love. Jesus is the essential Word, by whom Jehovah speaks. The scriptures reveal by the Spirit God's purposes, promises, and grace. Behold, be astonished and humbled, O soul, at thy apostasy, backsliding, and rebellion! Behold, admire, adore, and love the infinitely gracious procedure of the Father of all mercies.
Here is the criminal arraigned, iniquity charged upon him, God's displeasure declared, his chastising for it. This reclaims not. The Lord hides his loving face. withdraws the light of his countenance. What is the effect? froward behaviour still, walking on in his own ways contrary to the Lord. Might we not expect the next words to thunder curse and damnation ? Be astonished, 0 heavens! What readest thou? Is it, I have seen his ways and will damn him? Oh, no! But though I hate his ways, yet I love his soul. My superabounding grace shall reign and triumph over all the aboundings of sin. I will heal his soul; I will pardon him. Poor doubting soul, with thy legal frames, go and learn what that meaneth, “I will be gracious to
whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him.” Here is the glory of grace. This is the triumph of faith. Mercy proclaimed, shows the munificence of God. But the dejected heart may still be in suspense. Is it for me? Yes, if thou believest on the Son of God. As he is thy salvation, his Spirit will assure thee of thy interest in his love. Where the truth is received by faith, the comfort shall be enjoyed. Whom God pardons in his heart, he leads to the knowledge and enjoy. ment of it, and restores lost comforts to the backsliding soul. A sense of pardon is of the essence of gospel grace and comfort; the result of Jesus' atonement; the gift of his Spirit, and the privilege of believers. What God has not promised it is presumption to expect. It is injurious unbelief not to plead, when he bids us, “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full," John xvi. 24.
AUGUST 28.-Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.—Psalm lxxxiv. 5.
When hearts are united in love, there is a mutual complacency and delight in each other. Presence in creaseth pleasure; absence begets uneasiness; jealousy of displeasing, and fear of offending, mutually subsist in each party. In some sense, this holds good between the beloved soul and the loving Lord. All love is from him. And, as rivers from the sea return back to the great ocean, so the love which comes from God naturally flows back in complacency and affection of soul to him. To know God is to love him; both for what he is in himself, and what he is to us in Christ Jesus. The poor sinner, who knows that he is in himself “ without strength,” rejoiceth in his very soul, to know
that the omnipotent Jesus is his strength, that all his might and power to strive against sin, resist Satan, and overcome the world, is from above, is treasured up in Jesus, and out of his fulness he is strengthened by the power of the Spirit, through faith.
But is the converted beart a mere vacuum, or like an empty vessel ? No, truly; Jesus dwells there by faith. It is a fit habitation for the Spirit, and the love of the Father is shed abroad in it. "The ways of them,” even Father, Son, and Spirit, dwell in the heart. Then the way of everlasting love and eternal election is delighted in, the way of free grace and complete salvation by Jesus is gloried in, the way of atonement by his precious blood, the way of justifying and clothing naked sinners by his perfect righteousness, is rejoiced in. The gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, as flowing from Jesus' finished work in making the soul inwardly holy, and outwardly obedient to the Lord, in comforting and rejoicing the heart by the testimony of Jesus, are more and more sought after. And the hopes and views of glory in this sovereign, free, gracious way are longed for and expected. Blessed, 0 man, art thou indeed ! Blessed of thy God! Blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus! Blessed, not for days, months, and years, but loved from eternity and blessed to eternity! Thy Lord hath blessed thee, and he will not reverse it. Real godliness consists not merely in a system of notions in the head, but in the indwelling presence of Jehovah in the heart. Is this thy happiness, O sinner? What love hath the great God to vile man! He dwelt in flesh for us. He saith also, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them,” 2 Cor. vi. 16.
AUGUST 29.—The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.—Psalm xxiii. 1.
All comfort is derived to the soul from the knowledge of what Jehovah is to us. This we know by his
word, and enjoy in precious faith. “I am the good Shepherd,” saith Jesus, John X. 11. Thou art my Shepherd, says the believing soul. Thus, whatever office Jesus sustains, it is the glory of faith not only to view him as such, but to draw sweet peace and comfort from it to our own heart: that thou art to me. David knew the duty of a shepherd by experience: how watchful to preserve from danger, how careful to guide and feed the sheep committed to his trust. But herein is the peculiar love of our Shepherd; he "gave his life for his sheep." And after such love manifested to them, shall they want either his power to protect them or his grace to supply their need? This is impossible.
But a sheep is a silly, weak creature; it often bleats when it wants nothing; so do we. Though it knows its shepherd, and hears his voice, still it is naturally prone to wander from rich pastures; to break out of the fold; and, if left to itself, would leap into the very jaws of its enemy. So foolish are we also. Hence arises our distress. For, when we look to what we are in ourselves, and lose sight of the love and care of our dear Shepherd, we cast our eyes around us, call in this distressing thought, and the other distracting care. Hence, we often send forth the bleatings of unbelief, and cry out, “We shall certainly perish, for want of supply and assistance.” But where is the Lord our Shepherd ? Alas! we forget his dying love, his covenant engagements, his watchful care. We listen to the enemy, who speaks terror; and our poor hearts are affrighted and tremble. But in opposition to all that sin, Satan, and the law can say or do against us, “ The voice of the Lord is a mighty voice. It hath the pre-eminence.” For our Shepherd saith, "I give unto my sheep,
-what? grace upon condition that they will continue to be my sheep, hear my voice, and follow me?" Infi. nitely more; security stronger than the mountains; comfort more unfathomable than the great deep. “I know my sheep. My father gave them me. I lay down my life for them. Shall the enemy rob me of