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embrace all the blessings, comforts, privileges, and enjoyments of domestic, civil, and religious life, as these all belong to the inhabitants of this happy land. Thou knowest, my sister, that God hath given us richly all things to enjoy, and that “all things are ours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all things are ours, for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's.” And this being the case, we must not fail to place them among the other blessings conferred on the land of Joseph
IX. “And for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush.” This bush Moses saw on fire, and Him in it too, who had a good will towards the children of Israel, and still has the same towards all his dear people in this our day. His will towards them is so good that he never loses sight of them, nor will he ever leave them or forsake them. He leads them, guides them, feeds them, folds them, carries them, watches over them, and hath promised to bring them safe through all. “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will toward men,” we, my sister, may sing with sublime adoration. And so we ought to sing, seeing that all these precious things are on the head of our Joseph, which must needs make him a fruitful bough.
These were my thoughts on the relation given by Moses of Joseph, in the 33rd chapter of Deuteronomy. If you can pick anything out of my thoughts now communicated to you to feed your soul, do so, and give God the glory of all, for to him all the glory belongs. Fare thee well. June 20.
A HAPPY DEATH.
“Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy."-Acts xx. 24. “I am a stranger in the earth.”—Ps. cxix. 19.
Huntington says that to pray for a happy death is the greatest prayer in all the book of God, and, I think, backs his opinion with the above passage of scripture of Paul's, wherein the great apostle (great in afflictions as well as in knowledge) declares that he counted not his life dear unto him, so that he might finish bis course with joy; or, in other words, that he might die a happy death, as the saying is. Therefore, over and above, or rather connected with, the right knowledge of God in Christ, in his glorious blood and righteousness revealed in the soul, I have added also the above passage of scripture at the end of Paul's declaration; for I am persuaded that except a person is made (as the fruits of Christ in the heart, in his inconceivably precious blood and precious righteousness) to be a stranger upon earth,—I say I am persuaded that, though “a good man,” yet he will not die a perfectly happy death, or, as the apostle has it, * finish his course with joy."
I have had many thoughts on these things—thoughts springing from solid dealings of God with my
soul. And I am at a point upon it that God cannot lie," and that he “cannot deny himself ;" and I am certain of it that self-righteousness or licentiousness, in all their various bearings, or in any of them in the soul, will so far mar the perfect happiness of a saint on a death-bed. I have heard of dreadful death-beds of “good” people, who have gone to heaven all one for that. And to this the Scriptures bear testimony. Some shall be "saved as by fire;” others have an entrance administered abundantly unto them into the everlasting kingdom.
No one shall mock God; for as they sow they shall reap, and in more senses than one too. If a man sows to the flesh, corruption shall be the desperate harvest bre shall reap; and a desperate crop it is. Agaiu; if a spiritual man sows to the Spirit, is that all? No; there are degrees; there are spiritual niggards, and spiritual princes. Some God gives largeness of heart to, and some he contracts and deals less bountifully to, in this present life; for though all saints will be equal in the life to come, yet in this life some saints are " saved as by fire;” others go, as 'one said, like a ship at full sail, and, with triumphant ease, enter the glorious harbour of everlasting rest in eternal glory
These things are worth attending to. He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. the solemn bliss, and the soul-searching truthfulness thereof! Do you not think that the people of God know what they are about? Yes, they do, more or less satisfactorily too, from time to time. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, (it does not speak to self-righteous bond-children, or legalists, or the presumptuous, or notionalists, that so far turn grace into a screen for looseness or upmourned-over barrenness and unfruitfulness of life; but says, “My beloved brethren,”) be ye steadfast, (through effectual power given,) unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, (and for this solid reason,) forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” “We shall reap, if we faint not.” O glorious prospect! Fired with the blessed life divine within them at the prospect of these things, how a spiritual saint cries out at times, "My leanness, my leanness! O wretched man that I am !” and thus, out of gracious sorrow, runs faster, and cries out, “I count all things but dung and dross,” or, with Paul, in the words I have quoted, “That I might finish my course with joy!”
A wise man said that the Scriptures mentioned three sorts of happy deaths, or rather safe deaths; for I think happy, in its full (or fullest) meaning, must be confined to one. First, “The righteous bath hope in bis death;" second, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace;" third, what Paul sighed for, “That he might finish his course with joy.” Now, here are hope, peace, and joy; and though they are all blessed and safe, yet I consider (and who does not?) that joy is the fullest bliss. Joy is the very thickest cream, as it were, of happiness; there is nothing beyond it; it is heaven itself in the highest degree, in proportion as it is felt: "In thy presence there is fulness of joy." O blessed and soul-enrapturing contemplations! Does not each wretch that has a hope in Christ cry,“ Let me die the death of the righteous!" Yes, God is not unfaithful; he knows all about us, and knows what we are at. And we read of some that in the Lord, by the power of his Spirit, are laying up in store a good foundation for the time to come.
I am at a point upon it that as far as God enables us to sow in faith and love we shall reap. For my part, I acknowledge that I have long prayed, or secretly wished, between God and conscience, for a happy death; that is, that I might have Christ bright then, and not dim. 'I would rather bave joy than hope or even peace; that is, I would rather leave this miserable world, and leave my miserable body in it, with smiles, bliss, rapture, and unutterable comforts altogether, than have doubts or fears in the least degree whatsoever.
And I am persuaded on this point. No one shall mock God. If a man is erroneous on any one point, his joy will be so far made dim. For instance, if the devil comes in, and says then to the dying soul, “You are self-righteous,” if one cannot point to the blood of the GodMan and His righteousness, and say, "There is my only stay.” Satan will upset one. Satan comes in, and says to the dying soul, “You are covetous; you are lewd; you are proud; you have never had repentance deep enough; you are worldly; you have never given your money freely enough among your poorer brothers and sisters in Christ; you have made a God of your belly; you have minded earthly things too much. Look at all your chambering and wantonness. You have wanted to be somebody; you have been ambitious; you have been far from having a single eye to God's glory; you have not been careful not to set an ill example to others in various ways. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!' and you are the man. You don't know what mischief you may have done religion by your short-comings in so many particulars. 'Let not your good be evil-spoken of.'” In this way
Satan will come and assault the soul; and dreadful assaults they will be. O the havoc that has been made of my soul in these ways! And I solemnly declare that I never found any thing to overmatch these things except to be “four-square;” that is, sound in Christ in faith, and secondly in gracious repentance; Christ in a clean conscience; these two,--the God-Man's glorious blood, and His righteousness in a clean conscience. Christ's righteousness and blood are “the better things,” or salvation itself. But there are “the things that accompany salvation;" namely, gracious sorrow, heartfelt sorrow, genuine sorrow, carefulness, departure from, hatred of, and heavenly detestation, as regards every spot of the flesh and its wretched workings, on the garment of one's religious profession.
Do you not find a difficulty in these things ? If you do not, I do. O the inconceivable difficulty of running thus the race! Unrepentedof guilt, and guilt and faults that we are blind to, will mar the "joy” of a death-bed to wisdom. Christ “is made unto us wisdom.” O the precious glories that shine in wisdom's ways! “O that they were wise, that they would consider their latter end !” God requires it of
If God has not brought us, bis own regenerated chisdren," to books;" if he has not tried us daily at the bar of gospel-equity about
all our goings on in thought, word, and deed, more or less effectually, where is our evidence of our joyful death-bed in Christ ? Christ shines dimly in a polluted conscience. If God has not settled accounts with his children before, he will settle with them on a deathbed, and lay his rod upon them, and make distress to lay hold of them. I have heard of dismal death-beds even of good people. There was something faulty in them, in faith or practice. Their faith was partly letter-faith, or their practice or godly sorrow for sin was faulty or too shallow; so God laid his rod upon them before they gave up the ghost. And heavy work it has thus often been on a death-bed even to the precious sons and daughters of Zion.
And, therefore, I conclude with the apostle Paul, may I have a happier death than theirs. I have often wished it; and I believe that God will grant it to me," that I may finish my course with joy;" which is a very different thing from being stung with rebukes and frowns. And a man that has Christ is crucified; he has Christ; he has crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts; therefore, when his fleshly affections and fleshly lusts are crucified, he is, in every sense of the word, “a stranger upon earth," as I stated at the beginning. He does not want any one to tell him that he is a Christian; he humbly believes that he shall, in some degree, finish his course with joy actually and as a fact, and believes that he shall be in heaven as sure as there is a God. Abingdon.
I. K. A SERMON BY RALPH ERSKINE, FROM
ISAIAH XXII. 24.
(Concluded from page 270.) And, therefore," he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord,” saying, "The Lord is my strength and song; he also is become my salvation.” When the believer finds pride of gifts or grace begin to stir in his heart, he should presently check it, by putting these, or the like questions to himself: “What hast thou, O man, that thou hast not received? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou boast as though thou hadst not received it?" Let none of the branches that grow upon the true Vine boast, as though they had their standing, strength, or righteousness in themselves. “If thou boast, remember that thou bearest not the root, but the root beareth thee." (Rom. xi. 18.) All hang upon the Nail.
6. See hence a good reason for that solemn work and duty of covenanting, by stretching out the hand unto the Lord, as it is said of Ethiopia. (Ps. Ixviii. 31.) This duty is warranted by scripture example, and scripture prophecy concerning the days of the New Testament, and the example of our worthy forefathers in the three kingdoms, and this land in a particular manner. As God the Father, by solemn oath, has constituted his own Son the great Manager of his house, hanging all the offspring and issue upon him; so it is highly reasonable that all the offspring and issue of the family should confess his deed, by solemn oath and covenant, before the whole world, because this is for his declarative glory, upon whom all the glory hangs. It is requisite that we not only believe with the heart unto righteousness, but confess him with the mouth unto salvation. (Rom. x. 10.) And this is in a particular manner necessary in a day like this, when the prophets are become such fools, and the spiritual men so mad, as to derogate from the glory of the great Manager of his Father's house, both his prophetical, priestly, and kingly offices, by tolerating the erroneous, foisting in moral virtue in the room of his everlasting righteousness; and by throwing up his alone headship, and enacting laws, and inflicting censures, inconsistent with his authority in his holy oracles. I say, what more just and reasonable, in such a case, than that all that love our Lord Jesus Christ, and regard his honour and glory; should, in the most solemn manner imaginable, declare their adherence to him in the presence of angels and men, saying, with Joshua, “Whatever others do, we and our house will serve the Lord?” There are a generation of men in our day, who set up only for a private, selfish kind of religion. If they believe with the heart, they think they have done enough; if they enjoy raptures and ecstacies of love to Christ, they are easy what come of Jerusalem, what come of the ark of God, or a covenanted reformation. Let error in doctrine, corruption in worship, tyranny in government, prevail as much as they will, it is all a matter; these are not the essentials; all is well with them if they have what they call the Spirit. But what sort of a spirit is that which follows, cleaves to, and coalesces with abjured prelacy, a corrupt backsliding ministry, and judicatories that deny the obligation of solemn covenants, and, at the same time, inspire men with enmity against a testimony for a covenanted reformation, and all that own it? Surely such a spirit must be the spirit of the old serpent transforming himself into an angel of light; the old malignant spirit that persecuted our forefathers unto death for cleaving to a covenanted reformation, although now indeed it has put on the name and vizard of Presbyterian. They that boast of such a spirit, as if it were a spirit of conversion, boast themselves in a. thing of nought, yea, in a thing that is worse than nought, even of a spirit of strong delusion. A deceived heart and a subtle devil have turned them aside from the truth, that they “cannot deliver their souls, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?”.
Use second of the doctrine may be by way of trial and examination. Is it so, that believers are the offspring and issue of the house of God? Then it concerns every one to try himself, whether he be of that blessed progeny. We read (Heb. xii.) of bastards in the visible church, who cannot be reckoned among this number. They are indeed called the children of the kingdom; but they are such as do not inherit the kingdom of God, because they will be cast into ulter darkness. And, therefore, it concerns us to see whether or not we be the lawfully-begotten children of Zion, the true offspring and issue of God's household and family. I remember, in the doctrinal part, I told you why they are called the offspring and issue; and now I would offer you two or three marks whereby they may be known.
1. All the offspring and issue of God's family bave passed through the strait gate of regeneration, or the new birth; for, says Christ,