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The Gospel Magazine.
will not do. The Lord will not have it so. He will not countenance our in the leastwise seeking, even in the very smallest measure or degree, to live or to be or to do aught in independence of Himself. Throughout the Word of God we find the greatest achievements were in connexion with the most thorough creature-simplicity and helplessness; on the contrary, defeats and failures were as verily connected with fleshly wisdom and fancied creature-capability. The Psalmist never fought nor won such a battle as he did, when a mere shepherdboy, with a sling and a stone.
Say, dear reader, has it not been so in personal experience? The days begun, the engagements made, or the undertakings commenced, with but little fear, a degree of confidence, more than usual creaturestrength; what has been the issue ? Ah, what but at least partial failure, disappointment, dissatisfaction, deathliness ? On the contrary, you have awoke of a morning, or you have sought to fulfil such and such an engagement, or you have entered upon this or that undertaking, under the deepest sense of ignorance, helplessness, total nothingness. You have cried to the Lord for wisdom, grace, strength. Possibly your very pillow has been wet with tears, and this place or that spot, could they have spoken, would have borne witness to your heart-cries, whilst you have besieged the throne of grace. The very heavens have, as it were, echoed and re-echoed with the “Lord, help me; do stand by me; do sustain me; do defend and deliver me. Oh, remember Thy poor dust and ashes. "Put me not to shame.' Don't let all end in confusion. Let not the enemy triumph over me. Let not man prevail. Oh, make bare Thine arm. 'Send help from the sanctuary, and strengthen me out of Zion.' 'Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name.' Be mindful of Thy promise,
Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.' "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth unto all men liberally, and upbraideth not.'” Ah, beloved, what has been the result of these intense conflicts and these ardent wrestlings; what but successes and deliverances; giving you a fresh insight into those glorious verities, “The lame take the prey," for the “race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong ?” Paul's language is personally and blessedly understood, “Most gladly will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me * * for when I am weak, then am I strong." Oh, the blessedness of this paradox! And the souls of the Lord's dear people never know a tithe of the sweet docility, submission, and contentment as that which they realize when thus brought down, laid low, and sensibly look to and lean upon Jesus. Blessed are those trials, happy those circumstances, enviable that discipline which bring us to and keep us at the feet of the dear Immanuel. Poor proud nature knows nothing of the mercy, nor comprehends the mystery. It is part and parcel of that “divine secret which is with them that fear Him," and to whom “He will show His covenant."
But to return more immediately to our subject. Dear_reader, mark the reply of Nathanael to Philip, “ Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth ?” Now, when we think of what Jesus immediately afterwards said of Nathanael, as being “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile,” and as having “seen him under the fig-tree,” how suggestive it is of the very great need of forbearance with respect to those who may not see precisely eye to eye with us, or who may not have been led exactly in our line of things. Earnest and devout man, as doubtless Nathanael was, to say the least, it does seem strange that he should have asked such a question as “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ?” One would have supposed that, with his watchfulness and prayerfulness, he would have been better prepared as to whence and how the Messiah came, and that his natural prejudices would have been overcome.
But what a cheering thought for the wrestling and the oppressed, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee!” Under the shades of that tree, and screened from human eye, Nathanael had gone to hold communion with his God; and possibly at the very season to which Jesus alluded he had been asking for His coming, or for an early manifestation of Himself. At the same time how little did he imagine how speedily he was about to realize so full and so blessed an answer to his importunities.
Dear reader, there is no affixing times nor detailing methods when and how the Lord may answer prayer. He takes His own time and adopts His own way. Only mark this, "delays are not denials.” Generally speaking, the most definite promise is the longest delayed as to fulfilment; and the clearer and more conclusive the assurance upon the part of the Lord, with respect to this or that declared gift or blessing of the Lord, the more signal and prolonged the test of that faith which for a time hovered about, clung to, and believed in the promise. But, with respect to the hearing and the answering the cry of faith, mark what was said to the prophet Daniel by the angel Gabriel, “At the beginning of thy supplication the commandment came forth.” Now, to our mind, the very language implies that there was an interval, or a longer or shorter space of time, between Daniel's prayer and its answer. And so, beloved, with regard to Nathanael, “ Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.” As much as to say, “I knew who thou wert, and what thine object in resorting thither; and, although I gave thee no answer at the time, both thy person and thy purpose were approved and accepted of me.”
Dear reader, it may be that thou art passing through this very interval of prayers put up and promises fulfilled. The prayers have been presented again and again, and sometimes thou hast had hopeyea, verily believed at certain seasons, now and again, that they were in very deed heard, and thou hast blessed and praised thy God, as Israel and Jehoshaphat did, before there was the veriest semblance of deliverance. Thou hadst the answer in faith, but not in fact; and thou didst bless and praise, magnify and adore, His Divine Majesty
for His condescension, grace, and love. But since, there has come a death upon the promise. There has been no fulfilment, nor any confirmation of the old seal, witness, and precious assurance; and, because of the delay, the death, and the darkness, thou dost suspect that thou wast deceived ; that there was no positive promise after all. And dost thou imagine for a moment that Abraham knew nothing of these cross-workings—these fleshly reasonings--these satanic insinuations between the promise that he should have an heir and the birth of Isaac ? Why, plain matter of fact convinces us that he was the subject of these exercises. And, as we have already intimated, it was the plain, the positive, the emphatic declaration of the promise that called for the more marked test of the faith in that promise. We say the same to you, dear reader, if a wrestler-if one who hath personally known what it was to have had a word from the Lord with respect to certain things. The delay is nothing—the difficulties are nothing—the deathliness is nothing—the darkness is nothing—the doubts as to whether there was any reality in the matter are nothing, in the way of presenting an effectual barrier against the fulfilment of the promise. Oh, no, whilst all this stands for nought, the covenant word of a covenant God must, will, shall hold good : “Faithful is He who hath promised, who also will do it.” Therefore, in spite of feelings, in spite of fears, in spite of facts, be it yours simply to hold on to the word, and to hold it up to the great Proclaimer of the word, “ THOU HAST SAID !” Look to your Bibles; see the marginal jottings, mark the underscorings. This promise sealed at one time, that word at another. The freshness and The power may have passed off, but the promise is not obliteratedthe word is not erased, “nor hath the Lord forgotten to be gracious.” You may have “forgotten your resting-place;" but the Lord has neither forgotten nor forsaken it. Oh, no; and it is so blessed to hold Him to His word, in spite of ten thousand deaths upon it. “THOU HAST SAID !” That's enough for faith, when in sweet and blessed exercise. Ah, some of us, beloved, know what it is to look back with envy upon many of those old seasons and bygone scenes, when it was indeed a taking heaven by storm! Some of us if one may speak for another-seem to fail now in venturing to go in before the King (Esther-like), as one used to do, with an “If I perish, I perish.” Oh, what times those ! what seasons those! If one's fellow-creatures could have overheard those heart-cries—aye, and sometimes even the lip-cries—what would they have thought? To what conclusion would they have came about either the presumption or the saneness of those agonizing ones ? We repeat, if counting-house walls, factories, shops, streets, lanes, bedchambers, and other places, could speak, what could they testify with respect to the holy importunities, ardent wrestlings, and anguished entreaties of many of the Lord's tried and troubled children?
Perhaps the reader may say, “ Your words will be cheering to many, no doubt, but so much time has passed away, and such in
superable difficulties in the way of its fulfilment have since arisen, that I have now no faith in the word that I once thought was spoken to my heart.” Ah, beloved, as we have already intimated, the clearer and the more conclusive the promise at the time first spoken, the severer the test to which it is afterwards subjected. Of that we are certain. Hence the very difficulties of which you speak, and the apparent and seeming impossibility of the thing coming to pass, is to our mind the stronger presumption that the word upon which you were caused to hope will assuredly, in the Lord's own time and way be fulfilled.
“Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees,
And trusts to Christ alone;
And cries, "It shall be done.'” Meanwhile, whatever you may at present think to the contrary, it is a blessed thing to have petitions filed in the court of heaven. Perhaps you will say, “I have no evidence that such is the case.” If you have in reality known what wrestling times are, and if, as we just now hinted, you have known likewise what it was to have mentally blessed and praised God upon the virtue of a sealed-home promise, whilst as yet there has been no tangible evidence whatever of that promise being fulfilled ; the Holy Ghost was the Infuser of that faith by which, for the time being, you were enabled to triumph over all difficulties, and rejoice over all appearances. You have prayers registered in heaven; and in due time they shall be answered to the joy and rejoicing of your heart, as verily as Jehovah is what He is, the faithful, promise-fulfilling God.
Upon the ground of that declared recognition of Nathanael, on the part of Jesus, said he, “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou ? thou shalt see greater things than these” (John i. 49, 50). As much as to say, “Did this simple notification upon my part convince thee of my Divinity ? was such a simple word confirmatory and establishing of thy faith? Thou shalt see greater things than these.'” “And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John i. 51). Not so much literally but spiritually his eyes were to be opened, so that henceforward he should by faith see the wondrous intercourse between heaven and earth, in connexion with the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ should be most clearly and blessedly discovered as the Door into the sheepfold-yea, as the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.
But now, beloved, to pass from Nathanael to ourselves, if we have any Scriptural hope of belonging to the Lord, we contend that there is the blessed prospect and the divine hope and expectation of the self-same promise holding good in our own happy and heartfelt experience, “ Thou shalt see greater things than these.” As already
he beloved, to pass frong to the Lord, we expectation of
implied, notwithstanding all delays and difficulties, God-inspired prayer must be answered. Proof as to whether certain prayers were God-inspired and Spirit-awakened, we have already endeavoured to show, as to whether, in connexion with a deep-felt unworthiness, creature-helplessness, and fleshly nothingness, there has been a simple grasping of the word, a laying hold upon the covenant, and, in spite of all lets and hindrances, not a mere belief in the power, but a belief likewise in the will, purpose, and pleasure of the Lord, in His own time and way, to do certain things; and an inward blessing, praising, and adoring Him for the thing, as done, whilst as yet there is not the veriest semblance of such accomplishment; this is God-honouring faith, the which He, in due time, will recognise and stamp with His own royal signet of approval. And, when He does so, in proportion to the delay and to the apparent unlikelihood of such thing ever coming to pass, thou shalt indeed, by comparison, testify to the realization of the “greater things."
But apart from these express promises, bearing, it may be, upon the reclaiming and conversion of certain at present far-off ones, or with regard to providential dispensations or faintly-indulged hopes and expectations of circumstances or positions in connexion with which thou dost believe the glory of God, and the well-being of the kingdom, is concerned ;—we say, apart from all these considerations, surely “the greater things” are in store, and, in due time, will assuredly be realized, in that all the Lord's children shall be ultimately delivered from the bondage of corruption, and all the sins, sorrows, and sufferings of the time-state, to bask for ever in the fulness and eternity of that glory which the redeemed shall enjoy in the immediate presence of God and the Lamb. Ah, well may we accommodate that Scripture to this one glorious fact, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” If the momentary glimpses by faith of Jesus are so unutterably precious, what must the full, open, face-to-face sight of Him be? If once, twice, or thrice in a whole life-time, there has been a thirdheaven faith’s glance of the King in His beauty, and the land which is very far off, leaving an impression that nought can efface during a life's pilgrimage, 'midst all the sin, defilement, and distracting circumstances of that life, what must the unalloyed, uninterrupted, disembodied, angelic, heaven's own view of Christ, His glory, His redeemed and glorified, be? Oh, what “greater things these!” Well, in the prospect, might the blessed Toplady, and we likewise, dear reader, exclaim
“If such the sweetness of the streams,
What must the Fountain be,
Yours affectionately in Christ, THE EDITOR. St. Luke's, Bedminster, Dec. 10th, 1873.
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