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in a Christian country, and were baptized in your infancy- Though you were born of religious parents, and had a pious education Though you attend the means of grace, and hear the truth as it is in Jesus-Though you have a clear knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel—Though you receive into your conviction and belief the faith once delivered to the saints-Though you have spiritual gifts, and can talk well and pray wisely-Though your passions are sometimes pleasingly and awfully excited— Though you have undergone a great change and reformation in your character and conduct Though many think you have the grace of God, and you are admitted into the church, and admired while you live, and extolled when vou die, and the funeral sermon and the magazine may speak of you as having entered into the joy of your Lord- Though you are persuaded yourselves that you are possessed of it, and carry the confidence to the very door of heaven, saying, “Lord, Lord, open unto us: we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets-But he shall answer, I know you not whence ye are "
Of the numbers that came out of Egypt only two entered CaDaan; though they did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall.! L“ Search me, O God, and know my heart : try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
MAY 27.-" And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." — Acis xxvi. 29.
“Such as I am.” And what was Paul ? He was an Apostle. But he does not refer to this, or wish that his audience, like himself, were called to an extraordinary mission, or could speak with new tongues, and discern spirits, and heal diseases, and foretell things to come. He knew official character and miraculous endowments were not things that accompany salvation. Balaam was a prophet, and Judas was an apostle. But Paul was a Christian; and to this his desire alludes. For his exclamation is in reply to the king's confession-" Then Agrippa said unto Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” —And Paul said, Would to God this was completely the case with thyself and this whole assembly “ Would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were not only almost, but altogether such as I am, except these bonds."
Thus, therefore, he not only shows a consciousness of his Christianity, but the estimation in which he held the privilege of his state as a Christian. There was nothing he could wish for others, by an infinite degree so important and so valuable. For if they were Christians, he knew- They would be safe: for there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. He knew- They would be honourable: the excellent of the earth, kings, and priests unto God, the sons and daughters of the Almighty, the charge of angels, who were all sent forth to minister unto them that are the
heirs of salvation. He knew-They would be happy: attaining what all others seek in vain: happy in hope, happy in fruition, happy in their comforts, happy in their duties, happy in their trials. He knew- They would be useful : not only being blessed in tbemselves, but proving blessings to others; the best benefactors of the human race, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof, the salt of the earth, the light of the world
But see his benevolence as well as wisdom. The spirit that is in us lusteth to envy. We love things to be exclusively our own. The child is pleased when no one has a bauble but himself. The female is afraid that her fashion should be known; her mode would lose half its value should the dress of another be as new, and pretty, and fine as her own-So it is with all ranks in life. But grace had dethroned this spirit in Paul. See the benevolence of his disposition in three things. First- The extent of his wish. It reaches to all. Yet some of his audience were not only heathens and Jews, but his bitterest enemies. Secondly, the degree of il-were not only almost but altogether such as I am. It is well to see people like the young man in the Gospel, not far from the kingdom of God. It is well to see them hearing the word, convinced, reformed. But they may be hearers of the word and not doers; convinced and not converted ; reformed and not renewed. It is sad to go far, and come short at last. To be almost justified is to be condemned; almost saved is to be lost. Thirdly, the exception—The chain he then wore, and which confined him to the soldier as a sufferer or a criminal, would be deemned painful or reproachful, and tend to scandalize Agrippa : he therefore says, except these bonds. This was a fine turn, and showed Paul to be a man of education and address. But it shows something more than his eloquence. He would not wish others to be tried, especially at first, as he was. I would bear willingly all my afflictions, till be for whom I suffer is pleased to release me: but I do not wish others to endure them. Let them have my privileges without my persecutions. Surely the righteous is more excellent than his neighbour! What a noble soul was here! Little and mean spirits can never rise to this. If they wish others to be equal to themselves, they cannot wish others above themselves. The elder brother could not bear the degree of the Prodigal's reception Thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends-Yet for him thou hast killed the fatted calf. But angels rejoice when a sinner, by repentance, is brought into a condition superior to their own. And we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich.
But when Paul says, “would to God” that this was the case, it is to be considered as a real prayer, and shows not only his benevolence in wishing their conversion, but his belief and acknowledgment of Divine agency as necessary to accomplish it. He owned this with regard to himself. It pleased God to reveal his Son in me. He called me by his grace. By the grace of God I am what I am-not I, but the grace of God which was with me. He owned it always with regard to others. Read what he says of the Ephesians : “ God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, bath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved ;) for by grace are ye saved through faith : and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them ?" How can it be otherwise ? If in him we live, and move, and have our being naturally, has the spiritual life, called the life of God, any thing less than a divine source for its origin and support ? Hence the promise, “I will sprinkle clean water upon them-I will put my Spirit within them, and cause them to walk in my statutes."
To him, therefore, for this influence, let us pray, not only for our· selves, but for others--for our families, friends, neighbours, all man
kind. He is the God of all grace, and he answers relative as well as personal prayer. But let one thing be remembered: if our pray ers are sincere, it will appear in our exertions ; for God uses means, and makes us the instruments of his agency. And he that con verteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
MAY 28.-"I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men ?-Job vii. 20.
HERE is a confession, and an inquiry.
The confession seems to have nothing very discriminating in it. The manner in which it is used, and the sentimeats from which it proceeds, can alone, therefore, evince the state of mind in him who employs it. In true penitence the confession will always be strictly personal. We may often hear the expression, “God knows we are all sinners," but the meaning of the exclaimers is to bring in others for a share, rather than to condemn themselves; and the universality of transgression is owned, to extenuate the individuality. But, says the real penitent, “Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer ?" '* My sin is ever before me.” And he confesses not only the fact of his sin, but the fault, the guilt, the desert_“I am not worthy to be called thy son.” “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." And while he is candid towards others, because he knows not the extenuations which attach to their offences, he will be severe towards himself, for he is conscious of the aggravations of his own iniquities. And as sin is the transgression of the law, and the law is spiritual, extending to the state of his heart, and requiring his principles and motives to be good as well as his actions, and condemning omissions of duty, as well as positive crimes, with his growing knowledge, his sins enormously multiply in number, and he only speaks ibe words of truth and soberness when he says, “ Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me." True confession is also always accompanied with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Some speak of their sins, if not with pleasure, yet with a kind of indifference. But Ephraim bemuaned himself. The publican smote upon his breast. When Peter thought on his fall he wept bitterly. Of course there is also a disposition to sacrifice the evil deplored. Pharaoh and Saul more than once said, “I have sinned, " yet went on still in their trespass. But he that confesseth and forsaketh his sin, shall find mercy. He therefore will say, with Ephraim, “ What have I any more to do with idols ?" He will even pluck out a right eye, and cut off a right hand, and cast it from him. Thus it was with the Ephesian converts. “Many that believed, came, and confessed, and showed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.” What a sum to lose ! Many would have sold these books; but these persons said, Though they have poisoned us, they shall not infect others, and threw into the flames what might have yielded them near two thousand pounds. This was bringing forth fruit meet for repentance. A man, too, when divinely wrought upon, will in his confession acknowledge evils of which natural conscience never accuses us, such as spiritual pride, self-righteousness, and the neglect and conteinpt of the provision made for the recovery of sinners, by which we frustrate the grace of God, and make Jesus Christ to be dead in vain. When, therefore, the Saviour says, the Spirit shall convince of sin, be adds, because they believe not on me. And no guilt will affect such a soul like this. And till we are led to the evil heart of unbelief, we overlook the root and the spring of our ruin, and stop only at the branches and the streams,
But here is also an inquiry-I have sinned ; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? It seems not at first view very intelligible. It may be taken two ways, requiring very different answers. First, What shall I do unto thee in a way of satisfaction or reparation for the wrong I have committed ; so as to prevent the consequences of my guilt, and stop thy proceedings against me?
This will be the immediate concern of the awakened sinner, and he will be able to give no sleep to his eyes, or slumber to his eye-lids, till he finds a solution in his favour. Hence Micah represents such a man as asking, “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God ? shall I come before bim with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old ? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil ? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul ?" In reply to this, it must be said, we can do nothing, offer nothing. The very attempt would be adding insult to injury. But cannot we repair the evil by future good works and obedience? In the first place, we can only obey in the strength of • God, and not in our own. Secondly, all the obedience we can render is always due to God, and therefore can never be meritorious in expiation of our oflences : the payment of things present will not wipe off the old score. To which also we may add, that our obedience will be incomplete, and therefore instead of recompensing God any thing, will fall short of his glory, and require pardon for its defects. The man soon sees this, and feels that he can make no atonement himself, and that the redemption of his soul must cease for ever if it depends on any ransom he can furnish. And thus he would lie down in absolute despair, but for the light of the Gospel,
which breaks in and shows him what in this case he can do. It is not to go about to establish his own righteousness, but to submit himself to the righteousness which is of God. It is not to toil, but believe-"To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." His only course therefore is to appeal; to take with him in the hand of faith the Surety of the new covenant, and to say, “Look upon the face of thine Anointed.” “Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name." Nothing else will avail; nothing else is necessary ; but coming in his name, pleading his sacrifice, you will be accepted in the Beloved as if you had never sinned, and God will rejoice over you with joy.
Then, secondly, you will ask, what shall I do unto thee in a way of duty and thankfulness? And the inquiry thus made is not only allowable but commendable, and as to the feelings of the pardoned sinner unavoidable. Though he has nothing to do unto God in putting away sin, or bringing in a justifying righteousness, he is infinitely indebted to his goodness. He cannot discharge his obligations; but he feels them, and therefore must ask, “ What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?" What service shall I present him, not as a peace-offering but as a thank-offering ? How shall I obey him, not as a slave but a son ? not as a mercepary, but as one who is blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ? To him none of God's commandments are grievous. What he has to do all the days of his life is to love his benefactor, to fear to offend him, to pray that the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart may be acceptable in his sight; it is, by the mercies of God to present his body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable; and by him only to make mention of his name.
May 29.-"Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." --Gal. iv. 6.
We have heard of benefactors; and we have seen a happy few who seem to value their wealth only as the resource of kindness and mercy; and who make it the business of their lives to do good. But God is love; and all benevolence vanishes from a comparison with the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us. None ever relieved such numbers, succoured so freely, or gave so richly. What are the greatest favours conferred by human generosity ? Survey the gifts of God. Consider only two of them— The Son of his love, and the Spirit of his Son—The one given for us; the other to us—The one peculiarly the promise of the Old Testament; the other of the New. Each of these is equally necessary in the process of our recovery. The Christian alike values both : and of both the Apostle here speaks: “ When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And“ because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." Let us attend to the latter