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MAY 6.-" And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his
A friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set be. fore him ? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not : the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and y
e shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”—Luke xi. 5–10.
NEVER man spake like this man. He taught as one having authority, but not as the Scribes. This applies to the manner as well as the subject of his preaching. He had nothing of official paraed and unfeeling severity ; but was gentle and affectionate, and came down as the rain on the mown grass. One thing cannot be over looked-it was the easy and familiar mode in which he delivered the most important doctrine. Here were no dry definitions, no logical subtleties, no abstract reasonings, no lengthened argumentations, no abstruse allusions, parading the erudition of the speaker, but darkening counsel with words without knowledge to the multitude-In his ministry the poor had the gospel; the common people heard him gladly. He commended himself to every man's conscience, by a simple manifestation of the truth; and always reached the heart by appeals the most touching and tender, and by images the most natural, conclusive, and interesting. I have read treatises on repentance, but I never derived half the instruction and impression from them all that I have found in the parable of the Prodigal Son. We have had lectures on humility. But when his disciples were disputing for pre-eminence in his empire, “He called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I gay unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Here he is teaching them to pray-but while he informs he excites and encourages. He argues from the less to the greater, and makes the contrast conduce to his aim as well as the comparison. A map indisposed to the thing itself, and even complaining of the application, may grant a request to importunity -How much more may we hope to succeed with God, whose good-1 ness like his power is infinite!
But O the execution that is done in the filling up of the representation! It intimates, first, that in prayer we may go to God in the character of“ a friend." And how pleasing and inviting is it to view the Supreme Being as standing in such a relation to us, and to know that we have not only a real but a perfect, yea, a divine friend, who is nigh unto us in all that we call upon him for. Secondly, that we may come to him at any season, even though it be “at midnight." He never slumbers or sleeps; never complains of surprise or interruption. We are allowed, we are commanded to pray without ceasing. David says, “Morning, and evening, and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud :" and "at midnight I will rise and give thanks unto thee, because of thy righteous judgments.” Never wait for a more
avenient or favourable period-go to him immediately-in the
midnight gloom of thy experience or condition-He can turn the shadow of death into the morning. Thirdly, that we are allowed to ask of him largely_“ Send me, not a loaf, but three loaves." Fourthly, that we need not be ashamed to tell him our destitute and straitened condition—"I have nothing to set before him.” Fifthly, that we must be earnest and persevering in our addresses. “Ask" ing," " seeking," “knocking," are not a mere repetition, but an emphatical gradation. Importunity is not necessary to move God; but it is necessary to evince our sincerity, and to prepare us to enjoy his undeserved favours with improvement and praise. · Lastly, that none who ask, and seek, and knock, shall be refused"For whoso asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” We often talk of holding a man by his word; and if he be an honest man, we have nothing by which we can hold him more firmly. Here we have the assurance of truth itself. He cannot deny himself. Let us therefore take Him at his word, and, relying on his engagement, whoever we are, whatever be our character and condition, draw near in full assurance of faith, and be filled with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.
MAY 7.—"I am pacified toward thee.”—Ezekiel xvi. 63. THERE can be no pacifying without previous offence and provocation. Sip rouses the displeasure of God. Therefore he says, “ O do not that abominable thing which I hate !" He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The wicked shall not stand in his sight. It is no trilling thing to provoke a fellow-creature. Every one is able to injure us : but some possess larger influence and power. It is spoken of as a great disadvantage in contention, to “be as one that striveth with the priest:" and it is said, “ the wrath of a king is as the roaring of a lion." But to fall into the hands of the living God! Man is mortal, and soon dies. And as the injury he inflicts is temporary, so it is limited. At most he can only kill the body—there is no more that he can do--But there is One “who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell.” Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he ? Hast thou an arm like God, or canst thou thunder with a voice like his ? As sinners, therefore, we lay entirely at his mercy, and he could easily and righteously have destroyed us, "and that without remedy." But he was not revengeful or implacable. He was not only willing to be pacified, but even devised means for the purpose—for by grace are we saved.
This pacification is to be viewed three ways: in the cross : in the gospel: and in the conscience. In the cross it is accomplished. Though God is good and merciful, he must maintain the honour of his law, defend his truth, and display the rectitude of his government. Hence he set forth his Son, “to be a propitiation to declare his righteousness—that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Hence also we are told that Christ "made reconciliation for the sins of the people.” His death was infinitely valuable, not only from his innocency, but his divinity ; and was “an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling
savour.” Thus while sin is condemned it is pardoned; and God is glorified while we are redeemed. There is now no hinderance to a sinner's return on the part of God; and “ we have boldness to enter into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus." What do people mean when they talk of making their peace with God ? If such peace can be made, it was made by the blood of the cross. If our tears, and confessions, and performances, could have accomplished the work, God would have spared his own Son an immensity of needless suffering. If without shedding of blood there is no remission, Christ has been sacrificed for us, or we are yet in our sins.
In the gospel it is revealed. In vain the work had been effected unless it had been made known. But now the righteouspess of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets : and whatever obscurity attaches to any other subject in the Scriptures, the light of life shines on this subject with peculiar lustre. The Peacemaker himself came and preached peace: and sent forth also his servants to publish it everywhere, and upon the house-tops. The gospel ministry is called the ministry of reconciliation; that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them: upon which ground, says the Apostle, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us : we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." How blind must that guide be, who does not show unto men this way of salvation! What a physician of no value is he who does not employ this balm of Gilead in the cure of souls !-By his stripes we are healed.
In the conscience it is realized. In vain is it not only procured but published, if it be rejected or disregarded. It must be applied by faith. Then we receive the atonement: rely upon it; plead it; and have access with confidence. By believing we enter into rest; and being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ ; not only peace above, but peace within. And it is a peace which passeth all understanding. For he is pacified perfectly, and for ever. Who can describe the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin ? and who is able to say, “ As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us?” God's frown darkens the universe: but when he smiles everything rejoices. Eternity has no dread. Death has no sting. Affliction has no curse. “In that day," therefore, says the Church, “O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.”
Nor is this experience unfriendly to holiness, and good works. Yea, it is necessary to them: and believers are witnesses of these things. The people of the world may think that their liberty is licentious; but they run in the way of his commandments when God hath enlarged their heart. The joy of the Lord, instead of weakening their motives to duty, is their strength. The comforts of the Holy Ghost, instead of being opiates, prove cordials, and give them life more abundantly. The promises cleanse them. Hope purifies them. What says the Apostle ? “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works tu
serve the living God ?” What says God in the words before us? “That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done." The apprehension of wrath not only terrifies, but repels. We hate those we dread. We cannot love a Being while we view him as an enemy to our happiness.
Till I knew God as the God of peace, my heart could no more bleed than a stone. But when I saw his glory in the face of Jesus Christ, when I saw his abundant mercy, and the exceeding riches of his grace, not only in sparing me so long, but in being willing to receive me after all my offences; and especially in having, not only without my desert, but even desire, provided a Saviour in whom I have righteousness, and strength, and all spiritual blessings in heavenly places; and was enabled to realize the whole by faith--then the stone became flesh--then I cried, God be merciful to me a sinner-then I sorrowed after a godly sort. The prodigal could view the evil of his conduct in the misery to which it had reduced him ; and he had some sense of his shame when he resolved to return and say, “I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy Son; make me as one of thy hired servants"--But he felt it a thousand times more when his father fell upon his neck and kissed him. O how did he repent and condemn himself for having grieved such a parent! O how did he weep when they put on the best robe; and ushered him into the room of festivity prepared for the occasion-“Yes, tears of joy !”–Nay, but tears of ingenuous sorrow too!
MAY 8.-"Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory.”—Zech. vi. 13.
We need not ask, of whom speaketh the prophet, when the words immediately preceding tell us that he is the man whose name is the Branch, who should " grow up out of his place”—“He,” says Zechariah, “shall build the temple of the Lord" --And to fix our attention to it the more, he repeats the sentiment with a striking addition_“Even he shall build the temple of the Lord ; and he shall bear the glory." Let us observe the TEMPLE; the BUILDER ; and the GLORY.
The TEMPLE means the church of God. The Scripture often holds it forth under this image. The allusion was peculiarly natural in a Jewish writer, considering the importance attached to the house of God in Jerusalem. The name is founded on three reasons.
First, consecration. A temple is a place appropriated to sacred uses: and the people of God are separated from the world, and dedicated to his service—“ The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself.” This is done by his eternal purpose, and by effectual calling. The former is realized and discovered in the latter, when they who were his by choice, become his by surrender, each of them saying, “Lord, I am thine, save me. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?" And they should remember that all they have, and all they are, is now the Lord's; and that to take any thing pertaining to a temple is not only robbery but sacrilege. Let them think of nis when they would use their time, their substance, or any of their
talents, as their own, regardless of the will of God. Holiness becomes God's house for ever; and therefore it becomes them. Our Saviour was offended because they made his Father's house a house of merchandize, and drove out the buyers and sellers, and hallowed it for holy purposes. And says Paul, “If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” How vile and dreadful was it in Manasseh to take the image of Baal and place it in the temple opposite the mercy-seat, the very throne of the God of Israel! Beware of profane mixtures, “ What agreement hath the temple of God with idols ?" Christians, maintain your sacredness. Keep yourselves pure from all filthiness of flesh as well as spirit. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own ? For ye are bought with a price : therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Secondly, residence. A mansion is a dwelling for a nobleman, a palace for a king, a temple for a God-and the church is called the temple of the Lord, because he occupies it: “ Ye are the temple of the living God;" as God hath said, “I dwell in then, and walk in them.” He is everywhere essentially, and it would be well for us always to remember that God seeth us : but he is in his Church by a special presence; and in a way of grace, and influence, and operation. This at once secures and dignifies it: “ I will be a wall of fire round about her, and the glory in the midst of her.” “This," says he, “is my rest for ever : here will I dwell; for I have desired it." What are numbers, or fine buildings, or imposing ceremonies, to communion with the living God?
Thirdly, devotion. He is served and worshipped in them as a temple. And he receives homage and adoration nowhere else according to his own requisition ; “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” His worship, therefore, is a reasonable service. The offerings presented to him are not gross, but spiritual sacrifices. They are prayers, and praise, and alms, and a broken heart, and a contrite spirit-and though all these are imperfect and defiled, they result from principle; they aim at the glory of God; and being offered through the Mediator, and with his much incense, they are accepted in the Beloved, and the worshipper has the testimony that he pleases God.
"Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people.”
MAY 9.-" Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory."-Zech. vi. 13.
We have seen the building, let us turn to the BUILDER, “Even he shall build the temple of the Lord.” In another view he is the foundation ; and the only foundation laid in Zion. No image can do him justice. The sacred writers, therefore, are reduced to three things—They strip images of all their imperfections, and apply them to him in their complete state-They ascribe to these images properties which they do not naturally possess : thus they speak of him as “a living stone;" for