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Acts. xxviii.-READER, let us bless God the Holy Ghost for those precious Acts of his apostles in his church, for most blessed and delightful they are, as monuments of the Lord's 's grace in his servants' ministry. Think what multitudes now in glory, enjoyed the sweet savour of them, while on earth. Think how daily now the Lord is blessing them to his people. And, think what numbers yet unborn, will in succession rise up to the enjoyment of them, when you and I shall have been gathered to our fathers, and have seǝn corruption. Let us close our perusal of this sweet book of God, with thanks to the almighty author of it, for all the mercy shewn in it, and by it, to ourselves, and to all that are past. And let our prayers be added, that the Lord may continue to bless its use to endless generations. Amen.
Rom. iii.-READER, behold the awful state by nature, both of Jew and gentile. See what a portrait to humble our souls to the dust, the Lord the Spirit hath twice drawn, in his sacred pages; once by David, and here by Paul, of our utterly lost, and ruined estate, by nature and by practice; as we stand in ourselves before God. And this we are told, was the result of that inquiry, when the Lord looked down from heaven, to see if there were any that would seek after God. All were gone out of the way. All together become unprofi table. None good, no, not one. how then could it be other- wise, than while beheld in our Adamnature, and without being considered in Christ, "all the world must become guilty before God?"
And, can it need any argument of persuasion, to prompt the heart, convinced of this, to look to Jesus; yea, to flee to him, from the wrath to
come? Am I, are you, convinced of these most unquestionable truths, and do we pause, or remain stupid, and senseless, in the view of these vast concerns; hath God set forth his dear Son, as a propitiation through faith in his blood; and do we hesitate in the acceptation of it; is it declared from heaven, that by the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified in God's sight; and are we looking to that quarter, either in whole, or in part, for favor with the Lord? Oh, Sir, if at that awful tribunal, when God cometh to judge the world in righteousness, and minister true judgment unto the people, we are found without the righteousness of Jesus, and his propitiation, to be our security; what paleness, what horror, will mark the countenance of every son and daughter of Adam? Precious Lord Jesus, be thou my propitiation, my high Priest, my altar, the Lord my righteousness now and sure I am thou wilt be my everlasting glory then. When law
and justice, in the multitude of breaches I have committed against both, would give in their verdict against me; Thou shalt answer for me, O Lord my God." Oh the preciousness of that voice now heard by the ear of faith, and then confirmed with the unalterable determination from the throne: "Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ran som."
Rom. iv.- BLESSED be God the Holy Ghost for the boundless condescension of his grace, in explaining to the church the precious doctrine of justification by faith, without the works of the law. And blessed be his name for illustrating the truth yet more abundantly in the instance of the patriarch Abraham. Now, Lord, through thy blessed teaching, we see, wherein the call of God consisted, in taking the great father of the faithful from his country and his kindred, and his father's house, to come unto the land which a covenant God in
Christ shewed him. And doth not the same God in covenant now, command all the church to forget her own people, and her father's house, that she may be brought into the king's palace? Oh, precious faith, in a precious precious Saviour. Lord, give all thy redeemed grace, that when called upon by grace, like Abraham, to go out into a place hereafter to be received as an inheritance, they may, like him, by faith go out, in full confidence in thy grace and mercy.
But let thy people learn, O Lord, from this beautiful illustration of the precious doctrine in the instance of Abraham, that the justification of thy church and people is by Christ's person and righteousness, and not our faith. That which was, and is counted for righteousness, is not our faith in that righteousness, but the righteousness itself imputed to the persons of the faithful, from their union and oneness in Christ. By faith in the person and righteousness of Christ, we do in- deed enjoy the blessedness of it, but the work of faith, no more than other works in the creature, can give any title to it. And faith itself comes from and is by this righteousness. Oh, for grace from the Lord to have a right apprehension of the important distinction. And do thou, blessed Lord, grant to thy whole family the sweet enjoyment of their vast privileges. Neither the circumcision of the Jew, nor the uncircumcision of the gentile, are any thing, where Christ and his righteousness are imputed: "Seeing it is one God which justifies the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision through faith. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel, (both Jew and Gentile,) be justified, and shall glory."
Rom. vi.-READER, let us both learn from this most blessed chapter, how to answer the character, of everv description, who ventures from the pride or corruption of his heart, to charge the doctrine of free grace with
a tendency to an unholy life. Never, surely were the motives to an upright and conscientious conversation ever found in the least powerful or persuasive in the soul, until, brought home to the soul, in the death of Christ. And the child of God, who is dead with Christ, baptized into Christ, and buried with Christ, in his death; cannot but feel from the Holy Ghost, an implanted conformity to the likeness of Christ, so as to bear part with Christ in his resurrection, and walk in newness of life. And, what dominion shall sin have over that soul in whom the Holy Ghost dwells, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin? What shall tend to mortify the deeds of the body, but living in the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit? Blessed Spirit of holiness, give grace thus to live and walk, that we may manifest to all gainsayers, thy people are dead to sin, and cannot live any longer therein.
But oh, thou precious Lord Jesus, while seeking daily, hourly, grace from the Holy Ghost, to adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour, in all things: never, never for a moment may my soul forget that the whole, and every part of redemption work, and redemption glory, is thine. God be thanked that we were the servants of sin. And that the whole church, both in heaven and earth, are brought out of this prison-state, is all of grace. And do thou, dearest Lord, cause me to have my redemption by thee, always in remembrance. May my soul be more and more humbled to the dust before thee, that my God and Saviour may be more and more exalted. Through life, in death, and for evermore, be it my joy to acknowledge, that there can be no wages mine, but the wages of sin, which is death: and all the Lord bestows, even eternal life, with all its preliminaries can only be the free, the sovereign, the unmerited gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
THE EMBARRASSED BROTHER RECEI VED AND RELIEVed.
If thy brother be waxen poor and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him, yea, though he be a stranger, that he may live with thee."-Lev. xxv. 35.
THERE is a secret in that religion which the Lord the Spirit is the author of, and which no man can experimentally know unless it is freely given to him from heaven, John iii. 27. Now some of those blessed mysteries I consider are treasured up in the language of the Holy Ghost at the head of this paper, and may it please his sacred Majesty to open them up to the mind of him that is about to write, that both him who writes and they, who are taught of God, that read, may rejoice together.
The first thing that attracts our attention is the rise and progress of the Jews. The word of inspiration informs us, that they were at first few in number, but ultimately increased to a great multitude. And thus it is and was with reference to the spiritual brethren of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Who that is truly spiritual, and reads the sacred word, but must conclude that in ancient times,
The remnant then was very small
But that after the ascension of our Lord from the grave, we find that on onǝ occasion,
The Holy Spirit did display
His power on that auspicious day;
Again, by the right of circumcision the Israelites were distinguished from all other nations. And thus it is with the true spiritual Israel of God, who are, as the apostle says, the true circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. The Jews, also, had the reproach of the
nations around, who delighted to bring them into disrepute. And is not this equally the case with the Lord's redeemed family, who have the censure of those who are strangers to vital godliness. And I might go on to shew how the brethren the Jews were a striking type of the people of God, but I proceed.
Secondly, What we are to understand by "the poor brother," or the brother fallen in decay," &c. Sure my spiritual reader will admit that there is a spiritual meaning annexed to it. Now the fair inference to be drawn from the subject before us is this, that there was a time when this poor brother was once in prosperous circumstances, at which time he did not want the assistance of the brethren whom the Lord had blessed with
his bountiful providence. So if we take a spiritual view of the subject, we may say of all the brethren beloved of God, there was a time when they did not feel their need of the least spiritual blessing. If the writer refers to his own personal experience, he can have no just claim to say that his feeling and practice, when under Satanic influence, was one whit better than that of Pharoah, when he said, "Who is the Lord that I should obey him;" or with those who had the hardihood to affirm, that their lips are their own, and, Who is lord over us? Ps. xii. 4.
Oh the sad state that man is in,
Further, if we speak of persons falling into decay, whether we refer to bodily afflictions or embarrassment in circumstances, they do not, gene. rally speaking, become so all at once, but by little and by little they become poor. We often behold, from observation, when the hand of the Lord is stretched out against a man, to take from him his little all that he has set his heart upon, his rebellion often
rises exceeding high, and he labours hard to keep them, but to no purpose. Thus it is with his dealings with his own elect, when he begins a work of grace in their souls. I have often thought of that remarkable portion of God's word recorded in Deut. zxxiii. 2: "The Lord came from Sinai, he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousand of saints; from his right hand went a fiery law for them," not to consme them, but what they had embraced which was contrary to his holy Majesty, as it is written, Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be reverled by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work," &c. The truth is, the elect of God are made freely to confess that they are by nature oe a level with all Adam's sinful posterity, and are far from boasting of having the pre-eminence over the vilest transgressor. The following lines of Mr. Hart give a true description of a brother that has had his mouth stopped from bcasting of creature ability :
"Oh the pangs by christians felt
When their eyes are open;
All the living family know in a measure what is contained in the hymn I have just referred to, or, to keep to the words at the head of this paper, they know what it is to fall into spiritual decay, just like a man that is afflicted with a consumption, whether the disorder is slow or rapid, he ultimately wastes away to a mere skeleton; so the poor sinner feels, who is taught by God the Holy Ghost; and it is from his teaching he discovers what the law requires, and the impossibility of his obtaining salvation upon the ground of his own obedience. I am sure when once this life from God is experienced in our souls
the disease is surely fatal, and, as I observed before relative to a man's body wasting away, so the whole body of a man's mere profession is sure to fade away, for he shall know what is contained in the following passage of holy writ: "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died," to all hopes of being saved by a covenant of works.
He sees his righteousness is thin,
Starvation too is felt within;
I now come, thirdly, to show who those rich brethren represent, and how they cordially receive the poor brethren.
I shall begin by noticing the nature of their riches. They are all of a spiritual nature, and they are said to be rich in faith, James ii. 5, and rich in good works, 1 Tim. iv. 18. These riches, also, are said to be durable, Prov. viii. 18. It is said, again, that they have these treasures in an earthen vessel, which sometimes is called a house, as it is written, "Wealth and riches shall be in his house, and his righteousness endureth for ever." Psalm cxii, 3. It is "the Lord who is rich in mercy," Eph. ii. 4, that makes them prosperous; and as for themselves, they feelingly confess and say with a rich brother, “O Lord our God, all this store cometh of thine own hand, and all is thine own," 1 Chron. xxix. 16. Now the Lord the Spirit gives to these rich brethren a penetrating mind, so much so that they have a very keen discernment in judgment of spiritual thiugs, and the voice of the Lord is with them, "Try the spirits, whether they be of God." The truth is, they are not satisfied with trying men's words only, for many will acknowledge they are poor, &c., who never knew, from the sacred teachings of the Leader of spiritual Israel, what it is to be poor in spirit. But when they have these poor brethren declare what God hath done for their souls, they feel a plea
sure in listening to their complaints, I say, when they speak feelingly of what their poor souls felt when condemnation was by God himself sealed upon their souls; this unites their souls to them; and the reason is obvious, because they have travelled the same painful path. Moreover, it is said of those rich brethren, that the Lord hath spoken to his people by their mouth in ancient times, yea, and he doth still make them the honoured instruments in his holy hand of dropping a word of comfort to his poor, afflicted people. Are they hungred and in want of heavenly food? these brethren cited above will take them into their spiritual affections, and, instrumentally, feed their souls with spiritual blessings. Have they contracted a debt that is exceeding great, and feel the famine spread over their souls, and not only so but have gone under the all searching scrutiny of Moses, who has burned up all that they vainly thought would pass current in Sion's street? these rich brethren take them into their prayers before a throne of grace, and direct them to Jesus, who hath done all things well, in going to the end of the law. Yes, said one of these brethren in times past, he (Jesus) in love to poor, law-wrecked, self-condemned sinners, hath maguified the law and made it honourable, Isa. xlii.
22. Are they naked, or, in other words, do they feel their own righteousness to be but fifthy rags, Isa. lxvi. 6? these brethren are commanded to bring forth the best robe, even the imputed righteousness of Jesus for every returning prodigal. These rich brethren are a striking type of the preachers of God's salvation; these by the ministry of the word visit their poor brethren when in prison, in their feelings, and when they are like the psalmist, shut up and cannot come forth to praise rhe Lord for his great mercy towards them; they are received into the church below, and shall ultimately be received into the
church above. If my spiritual reader take the text with its connection, he will perceive all this was to be done freely, they were to receive nothing for their kindness towards the poor brother, for Jesus said unto his disciples, "Freely ye have received, freely give," &c., and we know
A free salvation suits the poor,
But we come, lastly, to notice what is said to the stranger: he was to receive the same comfort and be treated in the same manner as the Israelite, when he was brought into the same affliction, which is to shew,
The gentile sinners that believe
All that they stand in need;
Oh, the blessedness of the marriage state in Christ. If a woman is bound to her husband so long as he liveth, and the husband to his wife; Jesus Maker, my Redeemmy Husband, my er, ever liveth; and I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. And though I have played the harlot with many lovers yet will I go and return to my first husband, for I am his in an everlasting covenant which cannot be broken.
And I praise thee, blessed and eternal Spirit, for the sweet account which thou hast caused thy servants to give of it, that thereby we might know it, and through thy almighty teaching, believe unto salvation.
THESE few lines come with my kind love to you. But, dear friend, you must excuse my not wri