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7 FEB 33
"COMFORT YE, COMFORT YE MY PEOPLE, SAITH YOUR GOD."
"ENDEAVOURING TO KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE BOND OF PEACE " "JESUS CHRIST, THE SAME YESTERDAY, AND TO-DAY, AND FOR EVER." "WHOM TO KNOW IS LIFE ETERNAL.
The Family Portion;
OR, WORDS OF SPIRITUAL CAUTION, COUNSEL, AND COMFORT.
No. 1,297, OLD SERIES.
"Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."—2 Cor. i. 4.
A WATCHWORD FOR 1874.
"Thou shalt see greater things than these."-JOHN i. 51. We remember a dear old pilgrim—one that has long gone to the skies-saying to us, many years ago, that, in all his changes, the Lord had ever been wont to say to him, "Son, go up higher." Now, when the words we have ventured to adopt as a new year's motto were first whispered into the ears of one with whom we are acquainted, he thought," How can it be ?" Said he to himself," How is it possible that I can ever see greater things than those I have already seen? The Lord's acts have, in the past-yea, up to this very present moment—been marvellous. They have far, far surpassed all I had ever thought of. His interpositions and manifestations His boundless love and matchless mercy-have infinitely exceeded my utmost thoughts and expectations, not to say, my deserts. How, then, can the words by any possibility whatever apply to me, 'Thou shalt see greater things than these ?"
However, dear reader, by a careful analysis of the Lord's leadings and dealings, and by a comparison of those leadings and dealings, one stage with another, we believe that the words will stand good in a way of actual experience and positive realization. Setting the last over against the first, we think there is ample ground for adopting the language made use of at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, "Thou hast kept the good wine until now." Yea, more, beloved, in spite of all our feelings, fears, and experiences, we verily believe that the self-same words will hold good, on and on and on, down to the very brink of the Jordan, and, that once crossed, surely it shall be the universal testimony-the one uniform and triumphant shout-of all the glorified, as they exultingly gaze face to face and eye to eye upon their adored and adorable Lord, "Thou hast (indeed) kept the good wine until now."
There is a kindred passage, beloved, in John xvi. 24-"Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that
your joy may be full;" at least, so it is opened to our mind. Whether the Lord meant by these words that His disciples had asked the Father nothing in His name, immediately and directly as the Mediator, or that they had asked nothing in comparison with what He was prepared to bestow, we cannot venture to say. But of this we are certain, that the latter view may be borne out by positive matter of fact. We are not straitened in the Lord, but we are straitened in our own bowels." We, alas! judge of the Lord as we judge of each other, or as we estimate our own little puny selves. We seek to bring the Lord and His merciful gifts and gracious bestowments within the circumference of our poor fallen nature's view of matters, than which nothing can be more unworthy of both His divine Person and condescending acts. Our sin-polluted state never could raise a thought or awaken a feeling compatible with His gracious character or merciful dealings. All that we can ever know of God in this time-state, and the veriest approach to a becoming estimate of His varied leadings and teachings, can alone be by the operation of that distinctive and precious principle, faith, which is the sole gift of, and sovereignly maintained by, the Holy Ghost. From first to last in the pilgrim's path, and with regard to all his varied experiences, poor fallen nature has no hand whatever in it, unless, indeed, it be to resist, oppose, and endeavour to nullify and destroy. This is the only help-if we may use such an anomaly-that nature gives to grace. The Apostle's testimony to the Corinthians is by no means to be limited to the threshold, or first stages, of the believer's spiritual career, but it holds good all the way onward and homeward. In his first Epistle, 2nd chapter and 14th verse, he says, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Be it yours, dear reader, ever to bear in mind, "The Spirit quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing."
May the Lord, of His great mercy, enable us to keep this perpetually in view; and, as we step over the threshold of this new year, with all its utterly unseen and absolutely unknown realities, may we have grace to adopt, not by sight nor sense, not by reason nor appearances, but simply as a pure matter of faith, based upon the word of the living God, this precious assurance and blessed conviction, "Thou shalt see greater things than these."
As the Lord the Spirit may enable, we shall first look at the words they stand in their context; and, next, as they apply to individual experience.
First, as to the context. In the very interesting particulars which are given we see how speedily the seed of the kingdom was beginning to take root downwards and to bear fruit upwards. Observe, dear reader, the blessed effects of John the Baptist's exclamation, "Behold the Lamb of God!" What volumes do these five words contain ; yea, they embrace the whole pith, point, and property of the Gospel of the grace of God; and just in proportion, beloved, as by the living
power of the Holy Ghost put forth in us, we are enabled to "look upon Jesus as He walked"-to "behold the Lamb of God"-in that very proportion shall we be diverted from all the thraldom of this poor dying world; the misery, bondage, and corruption of our fallen flesh; and all the ten thousand doubts, fears, and dismal, dark forebodings suggested by the wicked one to our deceitful, treacherous hearts. Here is the simplicity of faith; and hence it is that some of the veriest babes in the family outstrip many of the fathers in Christ, and the mothers in Israel; because their eye is simply and entirely directed to and resting upon the Lamb of God; as yet undistracted and undisturbed by any of the contending and turbulent influences with which (if continued in the wilderness) their faith will have afterwards to be tested and tried. Of that testing and trying we do not here pause to speak. We, at the present, are simply dealing with the fact of what are the blessed fruits and effects of a single eye to Jesus. It matters not who it is that is found so looking-whether it be a babe, young man, or father in Christ-the only comfort, solidity, and real satisfaction a Spirit-awakened soul can experience or enjoy is simply and exclusively from looking to Jesus, or, in the words under consideration, "beholding the Lamb of God!" We may appeal to our own heart, or we may interrogate the reader, as to the ground of sorrow, depression, uneasiness, or doubts and misgivings; and sure we are that the result of such appeal or interrogation would be an acknowledgment that such state may be traced to the fact of the eye having been diverted from a simple looking to Jesus! We do not mean for a moment to imply that in the main, or that absolutely, there is a looking to any other source for salvation -for ultimate deliverance and the coming glory. But what we are now contending for are the details or the daily experiences of the child of God.
We know not how it may be with the reader; but, personally, this is what we find from day to day, a continuous striving to be a something or to do a something of ourselves or by ourselves. Until the heart is really "brought down by labour;" until there is, again and again, a realizing what it is to "fall down with none to help," there is an ever-constant proneness (at least we find it so) to trade with stock in hand, to live upon what has been received. One's proud heart does not like the thought of being just as poor and helpless-yea, as absolutely as much in need of coming to Jesus, and looking to and leaning upon Him from moment to moment-as one did the hour one drew one's first breath of spiritual life, as the fruit and effect of the Holy Ghost's almighty and quickening power. One vainly and proudly imagines that by this time one ought to have reached a state, and arrived at a standard in experience, when, in connexion with that "stablishing, strengthening, settling," of which the Apostle Peter speaks, there ought to be more stayedness of mind, and a certain ability to grapple with whatever may befall us in our daily walk. Ah, beloved, however we may be striving for this-and we personally plead guilty to the too frequent attempting it—yet it