It has pleased our God, the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, to give to his people, in the person of Abraham, an example of his eternal, electing, covenant grace. Abraham was called, and led and taught of the Lord, and faith was wrought in him to confide in God; he was taken into such nearness, such amiability with the Lord (though Abraham confessed himself to be but “dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27)), he was called the “friend of God” (James 2:23; Isaiah 41:8). Our precious Christ declared, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (Heb. 11:13). Who and what was Abraham? Before the Lord called him by his grace he was by nature a child of wrath even as others of Adam’s race. He did not know God, but was with his fathers, a worshipper of idols in Ur of the Chaldees (Joshua 24:2). All the particulars of what he was in his darkness, ignorance and alienation from God need not here be portrayed, but look yourself, child of God, unto the rock whence ye were hewn, and the hole of the pit whence ye were digged, and that will suffice (Isaiah 51:1-2). Oh the heights and depth of the sovereign graciousness of God to us vile, wretched transgressors, who walked according to the course of this world. Oh the corruptions in the hearts of Adam’s race! The hole of this horrible pit is deep and foul, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? Poor sinners quickened by the Holy Ghost are in a measure feelingly made to know how vile they are, and to cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The Lord hewed Abraham from the rock, and digged him out of the hole of the pit, and established his goings. Others who lived in Ur of the Chaldees were left in their abominable idolatries, dead in their trespasses and sins. “I called him alone, and blessed him” (Isaiah 51:2). “God caused me to wander from my father’s house” (Gen 20:13). His journeying, then, from his father’s house was not of his self-determination, but God moved him to go. The Lord was the gracious cause. So it is with all Zion ’s pilgrims who are journeying to the better country, that is a heavenly, to the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. The very first step in this path, and all the steps of our faith, are wrought and caused by the gracious operations of the Holy Ghost. The Lord called Abraham alone and blessed him, and he obeyed and went out, but he did not go forth alone. For Stephen, just before he was stoned to death, declared, “Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory when he was in Mesopotamia , before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, “Get thee out” of thy country, and from thy kindred, and “come” into the land which I shall shew thee” (Acts 7:1-2). What power was in this voice! How kind, how assuring was this voice! Abraham knew this voice was not the voice of any devils, the idol gods (Lev. 17:7), which he had been worshipping, but a voice of gracious, commanding, persuading power. It took hold of his heart, and he obeyed and went forth with the invisible, blessed God of glory. For that word “come” signified, I will be with thee, I will show thee the way, and show thee the land. “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran . And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came” (Gen 12:1-5). God brought him to see the land and was his upholder and defense, his counselor and friend. The Lord was mindful of his gracious covenant with him, and as he went from one nation to another he suffered no man to do them wrong. Yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Tough not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm (Psalm 105:13-15). Abraham walked by faith in fellowship with God. And if we are of faith of our father Abraham (Rom. 4:12), then truly our fellowship will be with God our Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
As we remember all the way wherein thus far we have come surely we must acknowledge that his abounding mercies have been our sufficiency. We have been poor sinful mortals all the way, frail and worthless nothings, often wayward, inconstant, backsliders in heart. I need not attempt to tell the story of our sinfulness and nothingness. Our father Abraham confessed unto the Lord that he was but “dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). But, by the gracious operations of the Holy Ghost, we have continued to cleave to the Lord, to yearn for his presence to be with us in our pilgrimage to the heavenly country, the promised inheritance of eternal glory with our dear Savior, our much loved and worshipped Head and Husband, our Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham went forth not knowing whither he went, and we do not see what steps we are to take today, or what shall be on the morrow. But to the end of our journey our path will only be as our all-wise God and father has ordained; this we know that the Lord hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”. That sweet word “come” tells us so. The Lord said to Jacob, “Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Gen. 28:15). There will doubtless be rough places before us, temptations and afflictions. It is not the purpose of the Lord to carry us to the skies on flowery beds of ease, and it is not for us to determine how it shall befall us. But if tomorrow there are floods for us to pass through, or fiery trials to endure, no strange thing will have happened unto us, for tribulations have ever been the lot of God’s elect and redeemed people while in this world. Jesus saith, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Our gracious God saith, “I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye”. Jonah, when in the belly of the whale, exclaimed, “I am cast out of they sight”, but he was mistaken. Ah! how many mistaken thoughts of God have arisen within us. But though the Lord may be often out of our sight, and we may be saying with Job, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him”, yet we are never out of his sight. The Lord sees us in the deepest darkest dispensations of his providences that we are passing through, for the darkness and the light are both alike to him, and all our portion, our lot, is such as is ours in the counsel of his own will. Truly it is wonderful, the love of God our Savior unto his chosen. They are accepted in the Beloved, and in him have obtained an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away.
And now, believers in Christ Jesus, we are journeying unto the place of which the Lord hath said, I will give it thee (Num. 10:29). We can only endure and hold on our way as we are found leaning upon our Beloved (S. Song 8:5). Christ, in his espousal of us unto himself, said, “come”, and we were so drawn to Christ crucified, so leaned upon him, that we went after him in the wilderness (Jer. 2:2). And it is our comfortable hope that he will bring us home to our Father’s house on high, we shall enter into the King’s palace in eternal glory. Oh, we shall be like him in immortal beauty, our whole spirit and soul and body glorified, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
501 Cleveland Street , Raleigh , NC
SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Volume 98, No. 5