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seen the afflictions of my people," saith the Lord to Moses, "I know their sorrows." Now, look at their character-fallen-seed of Adam -sinful flesh-rebellious-none doing good, no, not one. And yet, Oh, wonders of grace to God belong. Chosen in Christ ere the world was; redeemed in and by Him, drawn by the gracious Spirit, being sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Christ Jesus, the Spirit dwelling in them. Cords of love around-everlasting arms underneath them. True, they are full of doubts and fears, the flesh will keep up and work within them sin; but, glory be to the Lord, "though black, yet comely," the Spirit fighting against the flesh, they finally come off more than conquerors through Him that loved them. In all their troubles they are led to the footstool of Jesus, and kept there by precious faith. Jesus will present them unto himself, a church without a wrinkle or a spot, or any such thing.
May we be looking upwards. He who has hitherto guided us is faithful, and however oft-tried in every way, yet He who has holpen will help. May we adore the wondrous grace of Jehovah in leading, guiding us all the way through, and who, when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, will be our support and strength.
AN OLD PILGRIM.
Birmingham, December, 1847.
"A FRIEND LOVETH AT ALL TIMES."
Or whom speaketh the wise man? Whither shall we turn to behold the Friend he describes? Let us search throughout the habitable globe, and traverse earth's wide domain. Ah! fruitless will be our labour; in vain shall we strive to discover a Friend who "loveth at all times." True, there are close and endearing friendships here below. We may have friends who love us in the Lord, and to whom we are united by a bond of heaven's own weaving, which nought can finally sever. But do even these love at "all times ?" Is not causeless offence sometimes taken, and when we have given any real ground for complaint, do we not find that however the principle of Christian love may prevent their utterly forsaking our society, yet there is often a shyness and constraint which tells us that the heart feels not towards us as it was wont. But to go further. Let us not only suppose ourselves to have given just reason for displeasure to our most faithful Christian friend, but to have scorned all the tender means he may have adopted to convince us of our error-shunned his presence-slighted his counsel and manifested an utter contempt and disregard for him. Would he, with undiminished affection, continue to love us then? Nay, let us put the question to ourselves, and inquire whether our hearts
could glow with the same fervour towards any one who had thus dealt with us? But not to mention those various other vacillations to which all human friendship must be liable, or that creature mutability which must necessarily characterize and often render nugatory its most sincere and ardent efforts, let us proceed to the contemplation of that wondrous Friend who alone "loveth at all times." The Triune Jehovah is this Friend. Father, Son, and Spirit, each regard the church with equal love, and have respectively manifested their essential oneness, interest, and delight in the everlasting covenant, into which from eternity they conjointly entered. Each Person of the Sacred Three sustains a part in the council of peace, and the work of each is indispensably necessary to the salvation of every chosen vessel of mercy. The love of the Father is displayed in his election of the church in Christ. The love of the Son shines forth in his redemption of all whom the Father hath given him. The love of the Holy Ghost is exhibited by the effectual working of his power in calling, regenerating, and leading to Jesus all the members of his mystical body. It is important ever to bear this in mind. But inasmuch as it has pleased Jehovah to make every manifestation of his love to the church, in and through the eternal Son, so that "No man hath seen God at any time," either in his acts of creation or in the outgoings of his grace, but "the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." We will consider these words of Solomon as having reference to Jesus the God-man, and proceed to examine, by the light of Scripture, the great love wherewith He loved us, thus proving himself the Friend who "loveth at all times."
1. Jesus loved his people before time began. Yes, in eternity from the beginning or ever the earth was, His delights were with the sons of men, and although he foreknew his church would fall into deep transgression, and foresaw how low each of his people would be sunk in sin and pollution, yet he loved them and determined to save them. Thus, we perceive, that expansive as seemed the declaration of the Proverb, it nevertheless fails to exhibit the boundless love of our Almighty Friend, the date of which must be traced back ere time had a beginning, and is coeval only with the days of eternity.
2. Jesus manifested his love at the time of his incarnation. Verily He took not hold of the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham, condescending to be partaker of our humanity, and thus fitting himself to become our Kinsman-Redeemer, having a right to restore the forfeited inheritance. Now, God was manifested in the flesh, the love of the Trinity was embodied and made visible in the person of Him who is the "brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person," so that "whosoever hath seen "Christ-His love-His tenderness-His grace-hath seen the Father. Thus was the eternal purpose of the covenant accomplished when out of Bethlehem. He came forth, "whose goings forth towards his church," have been from of old, from everlasting. And in watching the path of the Man of Sorrows during his pilgrimage on this sin-stained earth, how much of his love can we trace! Surely here is the Friend "who loveth at all
times! " Behold him fulfilling every requirement of the law in our place and stead, for he was strictly "under the law" as a covenant of works, and his whole life, as well as his death, was vicarious. Yes; for us he obeyed the law; for us he endured its curse. "Many waters could not quench his love, neither could the waterfloods drown it," and when we follow him to the cross, Oh! how marvellously was his love displayed at that "time." What intensity of love burnt within his breast towards his church. His last words testify what was nearest his heart during those hours of untold agony. Yes; the redemption of his people engrossed his whole soul, and his latest accents told of their complete salvation and inviolable security. Jesus cried with a loud voice, "It is finished," and gave up the ghost." "Thus by one offering hath he perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
3. Jesus loves his people during the time of unregeneracy.
Even when they are sinning against him, and that often with a high hand, yet unknown to them his eye of love is watching over them. He has purposes of mercy towards them, and having been from eternity "sanctified by God the Father," they are now "preserved in Christ Jesus," till the hour arrives for their being "called" by the eternal Spirit.
4. Jesus loves his people in the time of conversion.
Behold, now is the especial "time of love! Now the set time is come to reveal to the unconscious sinner somewhat of that infinity of grace which was 66 'given him in Christ Jesus before the world began." "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called." Jesus passes by, sees him "dead in trespasses and sins"-cast out like the helpless infant (Ezek. xvi.), and with a look of tenderest compassion, and a voice of Omnipotent power, he exclaims, "Live!" The Holy Spirit descends, puts forth his quickening invincible energy, broods over this chaos of darkness and confusion, and immediately there is light and life! A new, a divine life is communicated, and this an imperishable life, but not in the creature's own keeping; it is "hid with Christ in God." Now, the favoured subject of grace is brought down to the valley of humiliation, and being taught the deep iniquity and desperate wickedness of his heart, he " groans being burdened." But the blessed Comforter reveals to him Jesus, and causes him to look upon him whom he hath pierced, and while thus looking, the penitent "mourns" afresh, and with a more pungent sorrow. But again the Spirit reveals the all-sufficiency of Christ's atonement, displays the infinite efficacy of his precious blood, and shows the reviving mourner that thus his iniquity is forgiven, and his sin covered. Then discovers to him the wondrous truth that by virtue of eternal union with Jesus, his living head, he is entitled to all the rights and privileges of Sonship, having been predestinated thereto from everlasting, according to the good pleasure of the Father's will, who hath made him accepted in the Beloved. Now, these words thrill through his inmost soul, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." And being thus drawn with bands of love, and called with a holy calling, he comes up out
of the wilderness, leaning on his Beloved, and exclaiming, "He is the chiefest among ten thousand, yea, the altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Israel!"
5. Jesus loves his people in the time of backsliding.
Ah! the fervour of their "first love" does not always continue; too often it waxes cold, and they wander from their Lord, seeking forbidden paths and perversely straying out of the narrow way. And those who, through God's restraining grace, have been kept from openly dishonouring that holy name whereby they are called, yet are all conscious of heart-idolatry, and are frequently found forsaking "the Fountain of living waters, and hewing out for themselves cisterns-broken cisterns that can hold no water." And can it be that Jesus loves them then? Yes; nothing can alienate his love. His eternal choice of them was entirely irrespective of any thing in them, and solely the result of his sovereign will, and therefore not all their waywardness and rebellion can alter his purpose of mercy, or change his fixed resolve to save them.
"Their love through many changes goes,
When dead in sin his voice of power quickened them. The Almighty Shepherd went after his sheep, sought them out, brought them into his fold, and made them willing to follow him and listen to his call, or they would never have sought him or desired his grace. And in all their future wanderings he follows them, and this is the language of his heart," And my people are bent to backsliding from me; how shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger. I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not man. I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously; nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. O, Israel, return unto the Lord thy God." True, He often visits their transgression with the rod, and their sin with scourges, hedges up their way with thorns, hides his face from them, saying, "I will go and return unto my place till they acknowledge their offence." And most gracious is this fatherly correction, for notwithstanding the hidings of his face, he is with them, and loves them still. But they must be made to feel that it is indeed an evil and a bitter thing to sin against such a Saviour; and oh! never does the renewed soul so loathe and abhor sin, and desire to forsake all iniquity, as when it can realize that, amidst all its ingratitude and pollution, the love of Jesus still endures. That Jesus should love at this "time," oh! this melts, subdues, overpowers the returning wanderer, while in broken accents he sobs forth, "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy." He restoreth my soul. He is" a Friend who loveth at all times!"
6. Jesus will love his people when time shall be no longer.
John tells us that "Jesus having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." Yes, to the end of his life on earth he displayed the deep love of his heart towards his chosen disciples, and through their mortal pilgrimage of fiery trial he upheld and sustained them. And to the present moment he is equally watchful, tender, careful over each of his redeemed ones. He supports in affliction, and proves himself the "Brother born for adversity," guides them in difficulty, succours them in temptation, and shields them from the fiery darts of their great enemy, watches over them in sickness, sustains them in death, bears them on eagle's wings, and brings them to himself! In a word, he loves at all times." Yea, his love extends beyond time, and will always be everlasting love. Who can comprehend its length and breadth, its depth and height? It passeth knowledge.
Measure the love of the Father towards his well-beloved Son, and then attempt to fathom the love of Jehovah to his church, for it is equal in nature and in degree, as Jesus addressing the Father (John vii. 23), says, "Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me." It is infinite love, boundless in extent, inconceivable, unfathomable! It was from everlasting, and it will be to everlasting, the same. Jehovah loved his elect in eternity because it was the good pleasure of His will. He loved them because he would love them, beheld in Jesus their Head, they were ever precious in his sight. This love has known no variableness or shadow of change, and it must ever remain immutably the same. Behold, then, the love of Jehovah-Jesus! this the "Friend who loveth at all times?"
Stonehouse, Dec. 23, 1847.
"In essentials, unity-in non-essentials, liberty-in all things, charity.”—Old Gospel Magazine Motto.
To the Editor of the Gospel Magazine.
Your present position having caused many demurs and surmises among your Dissenting brethren, I cannot forbear sending you a testimony which I have received from one deeply taught in the truth as it is in Jesus. As it was not written for publicity, I hope the writer will forgive me for transcribing; and requesting you to give it a place in your Magazine,
Believe me, in the bonds which nothing can loosen,
"I have not yet been able to cut the leaves of the Gospel Magazine' for this month (January), and it usually contains such precious things that I feel it a great privation. The dear Editor's pieces always