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Jacob than the God of heaven could be dethroned, or His word violated, because His fixed decree goes forth for them, and they must be put in possession of it. Just so the glorious Canaan above, with all the spiritual covenant privileges we enjoy on our way to it, are secure and certain ; "for the Lord God will give grace and glory, and no good thing will He withhold.” Now since the Lord has given grace, and pledged Himself to give the glory which includes the whole land of the heavenly Canaan, aud as He has made choice ct us for its enjoyment, who shall dare to throw in contingency when God has made all certainty? “Thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance.'
Just glance here a moment longer at His providing for a covenant people so separated as they passed on their journey. There is nothing uncertain here. Now one would be ready to calculate according to carnal reason when he saw the poor Israelites hurried out of the land of Egypt at midnight with little or no provision for so extensive a journey-Well, God may have chosen them in Abraham, and God may have promised them the land of Canaan; but that vast desert they will never cross: they will all perish there. There are no fields of corn-no fruit trees abounding; they will all perish in their way. No, no; God knew how to cater for His family. He knew the whole length of the journey, and marked it on His map before it was marked on ours; and every movement, every retrograde zig-zag crossing of lines as they journeyed, led on by the pillar of cloud and of fire ; and all the way they marched for forty years He fed them with bread from heaven, gave them water out of the rock, supplied them from His own hand as He had determined to do, all their provisions being laid up for them; and therefore the Psalmist says, “Oh, how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee.”
Now, believer, let me address the most timid amongst you on this point for a word of encouragement. No doubt you have felt, as I have often during the wilderness journey, as if heaven could not be reached ere you perished on your way to it, as if you would not have strength enough to go on, or provisions to supply the next day's cravings, and as if all must be a failure. Sometimes, too, unbelief will be ready to say, “Would to God we had died in Egypt;" and old nature will go a long way in rebellion with us. But how has it been with us? Hath not God provided? Hath not your “bread been given, and your water sure?" And hath not spiritual strength been supplied? Cannot we, some of us, trace back twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty years, during which the tempter hath been defeated, the world kept at a distance, and supplies of nature and grace vouchsafed, “no good thing withheld;" and we have sung with the apostle, “ Having obtained help from God, we continue unto this day?" And shall we now distrust Him, when He has condescended to be the Provider and the Steward; and, as I said just now, the Caterer for His people? Can He withhold any good thing from them? They are such a peculiar people, however, that none but God can provide for them. Their wants are so different from the world. Not all the riches and treasures of the world would be sufficient for the heaven-born soul who must have his supplies from above-who can live on nothing inferior to the “ bread of life," even the precious Christ sent down from heaven.
Moreover, it is a peculiarity of God's people that they cannot mingle with the Heathen, and so peculiar in their worship that they cannot
be satisfied with forms and externals. They must worship God in spirit and in truth. They cannot go to the crucifix and the wafer as if these were gods, and take up with the semi-popery with which dear old England is poisoned. No, they would as soon fly to Paganism, or worship the devil bimself as do this. They are so peculiar. I repeat, that they must worship God in spirit and in truth. This is provided. “I will put my spirit into them,” said He," and they shall live.” The Bible, too, is a provision from God. The throne of grace is a provision from God." The fulness of the covenant is a provision from God. Yea, all the means of grace are of His providing, and are specially provided to be such by His putting grace into the means, and causing grace to flow into our souls through those means, and by the use of them. I never read of His feeding the Egyptians with manna, or the Ammonites, or the Moabites. No, Israel was a separate people. I never knew of a worldling who could feed on my precious Christ, or of an unregenerate carnal man who could taste the provisions of the gospel, or eat of the paschal Lamb, and relish the bitter herbs with it. I never heard of a carnal man who could take the sincere milk of the word, pure and unskimmed, or worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and reject all confidence in the flesh. No, there is a distinction—there is a separation between God's peculiar people and all the people on the face of the earth. And it is God's work, " Thou didst separate them.” I know the disposition there is in men to amalgamate; and even the children of God think sometimes that it is a pity they cannot extend mercy further than God does—that it is sad and sorrowful that they cannot put it into this or that man's heart; and sometimes with a sigh they say as Abraham did, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before thee !" « Oh, that my son, my child, my husband, my wife, my brother, my friend, might be the recipient of the grace of God!" Nature will at times breathe this, and I will not censure it; but God alters not His plans, and steadily pursues His undisturbed arrangements, concerning Jacob and Esau, setting them apart from each other, loving the one and hating the other.
II.-Let me now invite your attention, in the second place, to the operations of this grace, making the separation manifest and plain. The secret purposes of God can never be violated; but they are unknown to us until they are made manifest. “Say not who shall ascend into heaven, to bring Christ down from above," or who shall ascend there to attempt to read the secrets of the book of life. “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart;" and "this is the word of faith which we preach, and if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Here is a manifestation of God's separating work. He had separated them in eternity in the councils of peace-He had separated them by giving them to Christ for redemption purposes-He had separated them for their inheritance, and their inheritance was secured to them-He had separated them on their journey, and He made ample provision for them amidst all the peculiarities which belonged to His tribes. But now they must be so separated as to be distinct, as to be marked from the world, as to be men wondered at.
And suffer me at the very onset of this part of our subject to remind you that if your religion has nothing in it that attracts worldly attention, there is much reason to fear that it is not worth your possessing. One of the first things that God does in the operation of His grace to make His separate people manifest, is that which He did for Saul of Tarsus; and I will give it you in His own words. “I follow after," says he, "if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." The first thing God did for Saul, then, was to “ apprehend” him. The term signifies the laying fast hold of a delinquent, and Paul was just then apprehended. He had robbed God of His glory as long as he could-he had sought to imprison and murder the saints, he had fought against the Lord Jesus Christ, and " breathed out threatenings and slaughter" against His followers; and away he ran from Jerusalem down to Damascus to carry on his diabolical plans and purposes there, in full pursuit of his mad career, as he bimself says,
" exceedingly mad against” the disciples of Christ; as he is pursuing his course an invisible hand lays fast hold of him. He is apprehended. He is called by name that there may be no mistake, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” A mighty grasp had got hold of bis conscience. In one moment possession was taken of all the powers of his soul. Not another step could he advance as a persecutor, although he still had the carnal mind. The voice of the Son of God changes, transforms, regenerates, renews, makes the man a new creature; and he who had left Jerusalem as a thief with the
purpose of robbing God of His glory, and of plundering Damascus of all the valuable jewels that he could find in it—the jewels of Christ's crownis apprehended just under the walls, is stopped short in bis career, his feet are turned in the way of righteousness, and he declared to be a chosen vessel to preach Christ's name to the Gentiles. Now I do not say that every instance of conversion is equally conspicuous, though equally a miracle of grace. And when people say that the age of miracles has ceased, I do not believe it. There is not one of Christ's posterity, in his natural condition, but is running as far from God as he can, “dead in trespasses and in sins," led captive by the devil at his will, “ far off from God by wicked works;" nor will he ever return repentant, nor ever desire to return; he has neither the power nor the inclination to do so, until the mighty, irresistible hand of Omnipotent grace lays fast hold of him, stops him in his career, calls him by his name, brings him to the feet of Jesus Christ, and laying down the weapons of his warfare, puts the cry into his heart, “ O Lord, our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over me; but by thee only will I make mention of thy name.'
I should like to pause here to give you the opportunity of asking, " Have I been apprehended after this manner?' Has an invincible power, a mighty hand laid fast hold of me, to stop me in my career of sin and folly ?" Now your's may have been a very mild career, and you may
be very amiable in your own circle. It may have been a very moral career, and even a benevolent career, in which you were running, but still a hostile career to Christ. It is, “ I will not have this nian to reign over me. It is in pursuit of creature good and creature applause, and not the honour and glory of Christ. It is a perverse road. It is, according to the Holy Ghost, by Isaiah, that
all we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way"—not one to God's way. Oh, how solemn the statement, “every one to his own way," and none to God's way. What then, makes a Christian? Omnipotent grace apprehending the soul,
Omnipotent grace fastening on the conscience, Omnipotent grace asking no one's leave, but saying, “ that is an elect vessel of mercy; come down to my feet;" just as Jesus spoke to Zaccheus, who was separated to bring salvation to his house at the proper day and hour. He had tried, in a certain sense, to separate himself as all Pharisees, and sometimes even publicans, do. He ran away, and climbed into a sycamore tree that he might see the Saviour; and all men will climb if they can; but the precious Christ comes by, and observes him. This man was an enemy to Him, to morality, and to good works, and a great extortioner ; but Jesus, when He espied him, did not say, “ If you repent, and amend your life, Zaccheus, I will forgive you;" or, as the Popish priest says, “ If you will pay me a large sum of money, I will grant you absolution.” No, the command was, “Zaccheus, come down, and make haste about it; for to-day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully.
Had there been nothing but nature in Zaccheus's heart, he would have spurned the Saviour, and rebelled at His command. He would have said, “I shall not come down at your call. I shall wait my own time, and I don't want to be catechised and exposed by you.”. But mighty grace went forth with the word. It was an apprehending warrant that seized his conscience, and therefore down he came in haste at Christ's command, and received Him into his heart and into his house : aud then he did what all should carry out—He made restitution. “ I have been a taxgatherer; I have wronged many by false accusations, and I am now ready to restore to every one four-fold.” This ought always to be done. But I merely name this instance to illustrate what I mean by “ apprehending;” that the commencement of Christianity in the poor sinner's heart is not his own act or deed—that it is not his minister's act and deed—that it is not the creature's act and deed, but that it is God's own work. “ Thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance;" and the sinner who fies from Satan's drudgery is the recipient of Divine grace, and made to differ by God Himself, that he may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.
We pass on, to remark that the operations of grace are not transient and temporary, but permanent and lasting, for they always proceed to regeneration. Another life is communicated. A life Divine is implanted in the soul. Now do not mistake that blessed word “ regene ration,” for the common enemies of God and man—the Papist and semi-Papist Puseyite—and I make no apology for calling them that) have done all in their power to explain away
regeneration." I do not suppose that there is a word in our vocabulary which the devil hates more than that, because he knows that it lies at the root and foundation of all personal godliness, and that there is no such thing as Christianity in any man's heart if there be not regeneration. And
therefore they endeavour to explain it away to mean renovation, or a little water employed in baptism, which we know to be nothing more than an emblem, though a just and true emblem. Anything that can be substituted for the thing itself, Satan will try to palm upon the ignorance and superstition of mankind. Therefore we will pause a moment to see what regeneration is. It is nothing more nor less than Jehovah the Spirit infusing, imparting, communicating the life of God into the soul of man without man's act or deed-in the most sovereign way accomplished, so that the man who is dead in trespasses and in sins begins to live a new holy life. The man who is estranged from God, and without the capacity to enjoy Him, bas powers and faculties bestowed and communicated which enable him to hold fellowship and communion with the Most High, in all the personalities of the Deity, and all the attributes of the Godhead. This regeneration makes the man manifest, issues in the new birth, brings him forth into a spiritual world, into the Church of the living God, into new enjoyments, celestial, supernatural, and Divine, into new employments, to serve God with all his powers and faculties, as he has served Satan with them before; and it brings him into new enjoyments, the spiritual foretaste of heaven and eternal bliss, instead of being carnal, sensual, and serving Satan and divers lusts and passions. This vast change is apparent in all that God separates in the eternal purpose of His love. And having done that, He distinguishes them from the world with new life, with holy principles, with powers, and with faculties to walk with God, and glorify God as they advance through the wilderness. I hope you will never give up this scriptural sense of the word “regenerate"—the imparting of the life of God to the soul of man.
Then, observe, that God's separation of His people is made manifest under the operations of His grace by their acceptance. That is a beautiful piece of advice which is given by the wise man, where he says, “Go thy way, and eat thy bread with cheerfulness, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, for God now accepteth thy works." That makes the man manifest. He is accepted in his person and in his works. In what is he accepted in his person? I might point you to Abel, and then to his sacrifice, to which God had respect; and I find the apostle enjoining the Church, that they should be to “ the praise and the glory of His grace, wherein (His grace) He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” Now, the manifesting of this is by the Spirit of God, when He so far calls His grace into exercise in the regenerate soul that has been apprehended by Omnipotent grace, and brought to the feet of Jesus, as to give him the sweet assurance of his being justified in the righteousness of Jesus, accepted in the merits of Jesus, transformed to the image of Jesus, of being adopted into the family of Jesus, of his having salvation complete in the person and official and perfect work of Jesus. So that the view which the poor soul bath, who is thus turned and regenerated, of his standing in Christ enables him to receive the congratulation of the apostle to the Colossians, “ Ye are complete in Him."
And will not such souls be called out of the world, and distinguished from those who do not love God? Is not carnality abhorred by them? If they have sorrows, troubles, difficulties, and enemies to encounter, they trim their lamps, they gird up their loins, and press towards the mark for the prize of their high calling of God in Christ Jesus. They are not pining after worldly vanities and pleasures, or the toys that the worldling pants after and pursues. They are not pining after what they shall eat or what they shall drink, and wherewithal shall they be clothed. No; their affections are set on things above. They learn to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. They “lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” They are apart from the world and its company. They are separated from carnal men.