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yet, such is the goodness, and the blessedness, and the largeness of God's heart, that he has treasured up all fulness in Jesus, for the supply of all our wants, so that the true understanding of all our wants is, that there is a supply for this very want in the fulness of Christ, and that I am made to know it and to feel it, that I may take it to him for the supply of it, and honour him by going to him with my emptiness to receive out of his fulness. O, we do then honour him much more than by our poor complaints dishonouring him, and distrusting instead of casting our cares upon him.
Does he command us to pray ? He sits on a throne of grace, and he will never have his people look at him in any other view than as on a throne of grace; he will not have them approach him on any other throne. And how would he have them to approach him? With all boldness : let us draw near with boldness: having this great High Priest, this merciful High Priest, who cannot but be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, “ let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith :” “ let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." And I may put one little comment upon that verse: The more we go there with holy boldness, the more we receive. For there is a sort of preparedness of the spirit for the reception of the blessing, just as the ploughed furrow is prepared for the falling seed. Now in this God is giving the very best to his Israel: why do we wonder at it? He has given them his Son; he has given them his Spirit; he has given them himself: and had we time, and did the subject seem to require it, I might lay before you this most blessed truth-that só vast is that gift of God, and so great is his bestowment of the best on his people, that there is not a perfection of his nature but he would have you have communion with him in that perfection; and the more you so live, the more you will live above circumstances.
But when he giveth them temporal blessings (I say, when he giveth them, because sometimes he withholdeth many to them who are dear to him as the apple of his eye; but no good thing will he withhold; and if it were a real blessing which thou requiredst, he would never deny it thee, my brother and my sister), but whenever he giveth temporal good, he giveth his people the knowledge of the real enjoyment of th:at temporal good; and just in proportion as they are led by the Holy Ghost to see him in that good, they have the real enjoyment of that good. Here are two persons, both
healthy ; health is a great blessing ; one receives it as a good thing, but the other receives it from God's loving heart : “My father gives it to me," he says; "he vouchsafes it to me; and this health would I dedicate to him to use in his service: the health that he gives I would consecrate to his service, and lay at his feet; the money that I have I would consecrate to his service, and lay at his feet also.” The world has wrong views of this: they think that religion robs us. What does it rob us of? It robs us of nothing ; it gives us all, but it robs us of no good thing. Does it mar domestic happiness? If the pious parent looks on the child who loves him, does it diminish his enjoyment of his child's love? Does it mar even his understanding? Who does not see how much there is of turmoil even in the regions of learning, and what mortifications a man stands exposed to who fastens his happiness on what men say concerning him? But if a man is led to say, as a saint of God, “ The measure of talent that I have, God bestowed it upon me; I cannot give myself more; and all I have must be used to his praise : it is but little that I have, but what I have I would consecrate to his service, and lay at his feet;" has he not learned the true secret of enjoyment ?
Yes, beloved: there is, even in temporal things, the best that is given in what God bestows on his people ; and when he removes what they consider good from them, he gives them the best substitute for it. How many have found this out in the region of domestic trial ; in the region of bodily ailment; in the region of perplexed circumstances ; in the region of bitter disappointment; in the region of real, actual sorrow : how many of God's dear people have found this to be a truth—“ I came closer to Jesus, and Jesus is better in it all. The Holy Ghost did open to me clear views of the Son of God : the objects of sense did sink, but the Lord Jesus rose: I was brought down, and he had heard me; I was laid low, and he helped me. My earthen vessel was shivered to dust; but the Lord came, an overflowing fountain, and filled my heart with his love.” Is not this giving his people the best? Who can say what are the blessings connected with a holy frame; when the mind is enabled to mount up by faith in Christ Jesus, and to go through the cloud ; to go through the press, to go through the daily care, to go through the weekly occupation, to go through the enemies on the right and on the left; and often to rise above it all, believing in Jesus, to cast our care upon him in patient submission, to yield up the soul to him in a willing surrender ? Who can say what there is in the holy region of being the means of good to others ? O, what the world is robbed of! What blessings does the Lord bind up in the obedience of his child! Which of you
who have ever gone to the abodes of wretchedness and misery, who have ever been the means in God's hand of binding up the broken heart, of administering to the poor out of your abundance, have given out of your necessities, the widow a mite out of her poverty, when you have been led to deny yourselves for Christ, to walk after Christ, and find it pleasant to put your feet where his feet have been before you—which of you cannot say there has been good conveyed to your souls ? Even in self-crucifixion, even in the mortification of the old man, even in bearing evil, even in returning good for evil, turning the left cheek when smitten on the right cheek; who does not say, as the Lord enables him, “ What blessings are bound up in that!"
We may truly say, then, that enough has been brought forward to prove that God bestows the best on his people in this world, to say nothing of the land beyond: to say nothing of the heavenly home, of the unclouded skies, of the region of perfect holiness and perfect happiness; to say nothing of the blessedness of that state where tears shall be known no more, where there shall be the full fruition of God and of Christ, and that for ever; to say nothing of all this, we can truly affirm of God's Israel, that, let it be bleak winter or pleasant summer, bright or dark, day or night, prosperity or adversity, God gives the best unto his Israel; he gives the best to his people.
But now observe, secondly, why it is God DOES THIS. Wherever God acteth, he acteth as God-greatly; what he doeth, he doeth as God, worthy God. You and I act below ourselves; God never can act below himself. The great God in his forgiveness is great; in his righteousness he is great; in the abundant supplies of his grace he is great; in the freeness of his salvation he is great ; in the sympathies of his love he is great; and that because he is God.
There are two passages that oftentimes cheer my own soul, and perhaps the Lord may make them cheering to your souls. The first is Isaiah, lv. 7–9: “ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts:" which, if I understand aright, means this: you have no conception what there is in the forgiving power of God; you have no idea how it floweth out from the very greatness of God : and as the heavens are high above this earth, so high are his ways above your ways, and his thoughts above your thoughts : you are as nothing compared with him, and your thoughts are as nothing compared with his doings: you have no conception of what that forgiveness is which is with God. My dear hearers, it is well that we have not, for if God had no more forgiveness in him than you and I have of conception of his power, half our days, it would be wretched for our souls indeed. We want a forgiveness that is worthy of him-great, gracious, glorious, unsearchable, infinite, absolute, eternal: and all this we have in God. Are you walking in peaceable paths now? They may be rough to-morrow. Are you sailing in smooth water now? It may be a storm to-morrow. But when that storm cometh, and, perhaps, you are ready to say-and numbers wiser than you, and more acquainted with God, have said it—" I wonder whether any are quite so bad as I am on the face of God's earth;” if such a thought should be laid on your soul, if such a conviction should enter your conscience, perhaps it may be like sweet music in your ears if thou art reminded of these words : Look at the heavens, how high they are ; so high are even God's ways above your ways, and his thoughts above your thoughts. Whatever God does, he does as God; he never acts below himself; he does not, for he cannot. He cannot love more than he does; he cannot be more powerful than he is; he cannot be more wise than he is; neither can he forgive sin more than he does: those whom he forgiveth, he forgiveth as his glory requireth, because he is God
There is another passage to which my mind is sometimes led, and I find that I have comfort in it. It is in Hosea, xi. How sweet are those words ! God hath sent them to you and to me, if I may so speak, scores of times. “ How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? how shall I deliver thee, Israel ? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? 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; the holy One in the midst of thee ; and I will not enter into the city.” Now, then, if you ask, why it is that God
giveth the best unto his Israel, it is because what he doeth, he doeth as God; and as he has given them his Son, the greatest of all gifts, the most inestimable of all bestowments, he never acts below himself, but giving his Son, he gives them all in his Son, to the praise of the glory of his own abounding grace. The apostle refers to this: “He that spared not his Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not with us freely give us all things :" what greater inconsistency would there be in giving us the greater, and withholding the less ; in giving the Gift of gifts, and withholding from us that which is, after all, the lesser gift; heaven is a lesser gift than the gift of Jesus.
But there is another reason; that is, the love which he bears towards his Israel. Who can describe what that love is ? The Holy Ghost doth use every figure that we may here and there catch a little (and it is all that we can do) from all the varied metaphors and figures in God's word, of the love of God. “ As a hen gathereth her chickens :" “ as an eagle stirreth up her nest:” as a mother yearneth over her sucking child: as a father pitieth his son. O, it seems to let one into the very bosom of God: as if he said, “I know you are nothing; it is but a heap of dust, weakness, insufficiency, nothingness : I never forget it.” “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” It is the love of his heart that leads him to give the best to his true Israel: he will withhold nothing from them to whom he has given his Spirit, given them his Son, and given them himself.
Thus we have a second reason, my dear hearers, wherefore the Lord gives to his Israel the very best of the land. He never acts below himself; but he acts out all his love towards them for the abundance of his grace and kindness towards them. But there is another reason, and I think, if I were to lose sight of that, I should lose sight of the Gospel itself: every blessing that the Israel of God enjoy, they enjoy for the true Joseph's sake. It is not for their sakes, but it is for Christ's sake: it is not because they deserve, but because He deserves it; it is not in their worthiness that they inherit, so much as in his worthiness : it is because he deserveth all things, that they have all things. O, how sweet is divine truth, and how beautiful it is in its proportions ! How lovely is the economy of grace too! Grace itself is inestimable, because it cometh out of the loving heart of a loving father, in all its greatness. It comes endeared to us in all its communications, because it cometh through