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and I will run after thee. Thou art thyself the way to heavenly glory.
When I find a cross laid before me, suffer me not to turn aside; but give me strength to take it and follow after thee.
When the travellers in the broad road, with specious arguments and smiling faces, though with aching hearts, would labour to entice me from the path of life; let me not be deceived by their sophistry, or ensnared by their wiles.
When the clouds of adversity darken my prospects; and the night of sorrow obscures my way, then, O! blessed Jesus, support my fainting steps, cheer my drooping soul with thy celestial promises, and give me strength and courage equal to my day. When Satan tempts and harasses my soul; when inbred evils rise within me and rebel: then, gracious Saviour, put forth thy mighty arm in my defence, lest 1 fall through manifold temptations from the heavenly road.
Thou alone art my strength. In thee I am strong. Increase my faith, that I may be daily united more closely to thyself. Wean me from the vanities of the world. Screen me from the enticements of sin. Guard me from the fiery darts of Satan.
Thus may I walk, O! blessed Emanuel, in close communion with thee, in the consolations of thy Spirit, in the enjoyment of thy love, in peace of conscience, and serenity of mind, till I arrive at the gates of death, where some appointed herald of glory may be stationed to conduct my disembodied spirit into thy blissful presence, there to dwell with thee and gaze on thy glories with rapture and delight
O! could I feel the sweet transforming pow'r,
A pilgrim journ'ying through a land of woe,
I daily need the Shepherd's guardian carc;
Blest Saviour! look in pity on my soul,
O! give me faith, to reach the blissful place,
XXXI. MERCY REJOICING AGAINST JUDOMENT.
The promises of God, which in Christ are yea and in him amen, shine with resplendent lustre in the pages of eternal truth. Nothing but unbelief can prevent the soul from enjoying the sweetness, or experiencing the purifying efficacy of these exceeding great and precious promises of grace and mercy.
The manner in which many of them are introduced by the prophets, must have filled the ancient believers with astonishment.
When the prophet, in the name of Jehovah, had been declaring to his rebellious people, their multiplied transgressions, we might naturally expect to find the catalogue of their crimes closed by a denunciation of deserved vengeance and final abandon
But how great is our surprise, to behold mercy rejoicing against judgment; to find, that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
The following striking passages will fully verify
this assertion. In the first chapter of Isaiah the Jews are called "a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters."
The Almighty declares his aversion to "their solemn meeting:" that when they spread forth their hands, he would hide his face from them; when they made many prayers, he would not hear. And then, instead of threatened destruction, the prophet adds: "Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow: come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
In the 30th chapter, the sinfulness of the Jews is proclaimed, in forsaking the Lord and trusting in the shadow of Egypt. The awful consequences of this departure is declared: "One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall
ye flee, till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill." therefore" (mark the surprising termination) "and therefore, will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of judgment, blessed are all they that wait for him.”
Thus we behold the lovely character of our God. Vengeance is his strange work, whilst mercy is his delight.
"As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”
Again, in the 32nd chapter the prophet declares: "Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye
careless women; upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briars, the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left, the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture for flocks."
How long shall this desolation continue? Is the prospect of misery boundless? Ah no! for thus only shall it be, "until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field; and the fruitful field be counted for a forest: then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field, and the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever." Mercy promised, forbids despair. Long-suffering leadeth to repentance.
How touchingly beautiful is the following display of judgment and mercy:
"Who gave Jacob for a spoil and Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord, he against whom we have sinned; for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law; therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger and the strength of battle; and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew it not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart. But now, thus saith the Lord that created thee, O! Jacob, and he that formed thee, O! Israel; fear not for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." (Isaiah 42 and 43 chapters.)
The Almighty Creator, taking, as it were, a survey of his moral creatures, says of his chosen people; (Isaiah 43 chap.)
"This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise. But thou hast been weary of me, O! Israel; thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt-offerings: neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not
caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense. Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices; but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins; thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities."-Surely now the deserved vengeance will be pronounced. O! my soul, read with holy admiration these accents of
"I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins; put me in remembrance, let us plead together, declare thou, that thou mayest be justified."
Must we not exclaim with David: "There is mercy with thee, that thou mayest be feared ?"
Must we not acknowledge the force of St. John's declaration; "we love him, because he first loved us?"
Must we not confess with St. Paul: "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his own mercy he saved us?" How precious are the Scriptures of truth. They are full of the loving-kindness of the Lord, of the goodness of our God.
The few specimens here given will serve to shew the extraordinary manner in which the promises are often introduced. The prophet first declares the guilt of God's professing people, in order to humble their hearts, and convince them of sin. He then proclaims the divine mercy on their true faith and repentance, as is strikingly shewn in the first chapter of Isaiah.
Well may we join the holy prophet and say: "sing, O! ye heavens, for the Lord hath done it;