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How glorious the moments, when sinners in prayer,
Rejoicing in Jesus the fountain of love.
Absorb'd in the spirit of prayer, they God's word
'Tis prayer which makes Satan's suggestions depart,
To worms of the earth, refresh us with graee;
SONNET FOR THE AUTUMN.
CHRISTIAN, where art thou? Lift thy head, though autumn-tide is drear,
("Twere well if thou canst learn at length, in every future need,
E. M. L. P.
THE WORKINGS OF DIVINE LIFE IN THE SOUL.
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter i. 10).
Wherefore. This word most clearly points out the connection of the exhortation in this case, with the previous part of the Epistle. It is always of the greatest importance to mark this connection, and not to take passages detached from their context. Where precepts are given, two things are generally to be considered.
1st, the persons or characters addressed; and 2nd, the occasion of the precept, or the circumstances under which it is given. If we neglect the first of these, we are frequently in danger of casting that which is holy unto the dogs, and of leading persons to suppose they have the power of doing that which they have no power to do. There is nothing which so much tends to lull sinners into carnal and false security and apathy, as thus to lead them to suppose, either directly or indirectly, by inference, that they have any power to perform spiritual acts or to please God, except He first give them the will, and then work in them mightily to accomplish that which he hath given them the will to do. If anything short of the power of God could enable a sinner to believe, then we should not be told by the Holy Ghost, that it required the working of the same mighty power to cause a person to believe, as it did to raise up our Lord Jesus from the dead (Eph. i. 20). If the second particular be lost sight of, that is, if the occasion of the precept be forgotten, then we may, even to the Lord's children, at times misapply the precept, and lead to a false conclusion, which the word of God might not warrant. Strong drink is to be given to them that are ready to perish, and a word spoken in season, how good is it—even as apples of gold in pictures of silver. Before then entering directly on the text, we must refer to the context to see, 1st, to whom is the exhortation given, and therefore to what characters it now belongs; and 2nd, the ground, or occasion of the precept. 1st. The writer of this Epistle is Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Christ Jesus, and, as he tells us, it was no cunningly devised fable that he was, as an apostle, sent to teach. It was what by revelation he had been taught, and also knew for himself to be a reality. He writes to those that have obtained like precious faith. Faith is the distinguishing token. whereby the children of God are manifested, and the children of the devil. He that believeth on the Son, &c. (John iii. 36); and ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. iii. 26). Again, the solemn words of our Saviour, when commissioning his apostles, are, He that believeth not shall be damned. How, then, can we hold out the expectation of salvation or deliverance from hell to those that have not this precious faith, and know not what it is. One thing is sure, all men have not faith; and another thing is equally sure, that
when our Lord comes again, He will not find a world of believers, but rather a little and despised flock to whom our heavenly Father has been pleased to reveal the blessed gospel. "When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Faith, then, is the characteristic mark of these here addressed. What is this precious gift, the price of which is so great, that even the trial of faith is said to be much more precious than of gold that perisheth, and by which faith, also, Moses was led to despise all the riches of Egypt, when compared with those treasures which faith discovered to him? We cannot go to a better or purer source to know what faith is than to God's revealed word, and there we find, in Heb. xi., the plainest definition, so that a wayfaring man, though a fool in the eye of the world, if taught by the Holy Spirit, shall not err therein. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen." These things not seen, but hoped for, are those revealed in the gospel, which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it is said, in the first Epistle, "Whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." We can only thus see Christ as the Holy Spirit reveals Him; for it is the work of the Holy Spirit to testify of Christ, and to guide us into all truth. Whatever, then, we know of Christ as the truth, it is wholly by the teaching of the eternal Spirit. He proceedeth from the Father and the Son, in fulfilment of the everlasting covenant, to show us our standing in the free favour of God through Christ Jesus. He is the one minister of the church, and as taught by Him, we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord; for it is with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven that we preach the gospel. Then the same Spirit must apply the word so preached to the heart that it may be effectual, as in the case of Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened, and she attended to the things concerning the salvation of her soul. So also the apostle speaks to the Thessalonians. He knew their election, not by immediate revelation from God, but by beholding in them the fruits of eternal love, by the word coming to them with power and with the Holy Ghost, and thus producing in their hearts that full assurance of the word preached, being God Almighty's word, and exactly suited to them as perishing and lost sinners. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The word of God is preached, and multitudes hear it with the outward ear, but some believe and some believe not. Why this difference in the effect? To the one "the word comes" (Col. i. 6), being brought home to the heart by the Holy Spirit, and being thus made willing, they receive it as the word of God, and believe it. To the others it comes in mere word, and the devil either snatches it away, or not being planted by God the Spirit, it withers or is choked by the cares of this world. "I have planted, &c." (1 Cor. iii. 6) This precious faith, then, consists in placing confidence in God's word, which says, for instance, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." Lord, I believe that my sins are many and grievous,-they are a burden that must sink me to hell. I seek not to extenuate them; I am free to confess myself the chief of sinners, but nevertheless I have hope;
thou canst not lie. I plead the blood of Jesus; thy word declares it eleanses from all sins. I see the dying thief and Mary Magdalene were made clean in that blood.
"And there do I, as vile as they,
Again, thy word declares that Christ is made unto us righteousness; I have none of mine own; they are but filthy rags. I find sin mixed up with all that I do. This troubles me, and keeps me low in the dust before thee; but I desire not to have mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is by the faith of Jesus Christ. In this glorious robe, this raiment of needlework, I am content; this is all-sufficient for me; I need not try to add my own patchwork to it. I am comely through the comeliness my God has put upon me, and my renown goeth forth. (See Ezek. xvi.) Again, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." Lord, thou hast given me this preceptthis thy will-that I, as a disciple, should be one of a peculiar people, zealous of good works. When I look at my own barren heart, I cannot but say, with the church of old, I am like a green fir-treeprofession, but lacking fruit; the sense of my own unworthiness would sink me into despair, were it not for thy gracious answer, "From me is thy fruit found" (Hos. xiv. 8). As a living branch, then, in thee the living Vine, I will hope to bring forth fruit to thy glory. I seek grace from thee, whereby I may serve thee acceptably, and so fulfil thy good pleasure. Thus it is that precious faith enables us to realize God's word, and gives a living reality to these promises and exhortations, that are addressed to us as children. One word more as to this faith. It is not of ourselves, nor have we a stock of it in hand. No; Christ is the Author and Finisher of it, and He gives renewed supplies as our need may be. To-day's faith will not serve us for to-morrow. May we, then, be found ever looking unto Jesus, who is the Author and Finisher of it, that so we may walk by faith, and war the good fight of faith, and ever say with Paul, "The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God." Through the righteousness of our God and Saviour, this faith is said to be obtained; that is, I conceive through the power that He has as the righteous One. The Spirit was to convince the world, i. e., the elect of all nations, and not of the Jews only, of righteousness, because He went unto the Father and was seen no more, but there is exalted with power to give repentance and forgiveness of sins.
The apostle having thus given the direction of his letter, proceeds to give and to wish for them the salutation of grace and peace, and shows by what means the Lord causes these to abound, even by an increased knowledge of God, and this is the reason that we find so much stress laid upon knowledge. The more we know of God as the God of salvation, the more shall we see His love and the fruits of it, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. So our God fills us with all joy and peace in believing that we may abound in hope. Believing supposes knowledge, and knowledge revealed by God the Spirit is always accom
panied by faith. Whatever they had as yet received as truth, or however they had been enabled to adorn the doctrine of Christ their Saviour in their lives, all flowed from God's divine power giving them all things that pertained to life and godliness, and that again by the same means, God working mightily by those means, i. e., through the knowledge of Him who called them to glory and virtue. "Without me," says Christ, "ye can do nothing ;" and it is alone as we thus know and experience our own weakness, and at the same time our standing in Christ Jesus, that we shall be enabled to walk religiously in good works. Although holiness of life has no share or part in our salvation, yet when the tree is made good it must bring forth good fruit, and by their fruits we are to judge the trees. It is not the fruit that makes the tree good, but rather shows it to be good. The promise of the Shepherd is, after restoring His sheep, He will lead them in paths of righteousness for His name's sake (Ps. xxiii.), so that God's name is concerned in His people, not walking as others walk, in the vanity of their minds; and as it is only by His grace that we can serve Him acceptably or abstain from fleshly lusts, we should ever be found at the throne of grace, that we may find grace to help in time of need. As the life of the body is manifested by the motions and actions of the members, so the life of the soul is manifested (when imparted) by the desires and outgoings of the heart towards God who gave the life, and towards the members of Christ's body, who with us partake of this life. "Whereby are given-i. e., by the Divine power-are given to us exceeding great and precious promises." By faith we take God at His word, and stagger not at His promises, through unbelief. We count Him faithful who has promised, and look not to the difficulties or seeming impossibilities in the way. The slothful man says there is a lion in the way, but the child of God, who is a diligent man under the Lord's guidance, faces the lion, and he either flees, being resisted in faith, or is found to be (so to speak), a mere paper lion, the phantom or ghost of our imagination. Trusting, then, to Him who gave the promises to fulfil them, he who by faith embraces them, is made partaker of the divine nature, and escapes the corruptions that are in the world through lust. By faith, he is shown to be a child of God, and therefore of Christ's body; a partaker of Christ's life, and so an heir of immortality; an heir of God and joint-heir of Christ. God now works in him both to will and to do, and he therefore can work, and is at length taught and enabled, by the grace of God, to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and know that the time past of his life sufficeth him to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, and that now being made free from sin and become a servant to God, he has his fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Rom. vi. 22). But in the Christian course or race there is no standing still; there is no perfection in the flesh. Here we never attain unto perfect knowledge or perfect purity. far from it. The knowledge we have only whets our appetite to know more and more. Although new motives and principles guide us, and we have new associations and new duties, yet the child of God ever mourns over his short comings and hardness of heart, and the more he knows himself, the more will the desperate wickedness of his carnal