Beloved In Christ Jesus, In The Bonds Of The Covenant, Ordered In All Things, And Sure: – We are witnesses that the covenant of grace is sure, or else we should have perished in our sins. Even since we first tasted that the Lord is gracious, but for the sure mercies of the everlasting God, which are according to his eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, we should have given up hope of attaining to eternal glory. We are made to see daily that we are not worthy of the least of God’s mercies, and not only have we no worthiness, but such sights are given us of the depravity of our flesh that we have to say,
“Without thy sweet mercy I could not live here,
Sin soon would reduce me to utter despair;
But through thy free goodness my spirits revive,
And he that first made me still keeps me alive.”
God’s tender mercies are over all his works, and nowhere is this more manifestly declared than in the works of the new creation, that is, in the children of God. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” “This people have I formed for myself: they shall shew forth my praise.” “Mercy shall be built up forever.” – Psalm lxxxix. 2. Thus then it is that streams of mercy perpetual flow to solace us as we journey through the wilderness of temptation and sin. The people of God are likened to tender herbs, (Deut. xxxii. 2,) and tender herbs need to be dealt with tenderly. Well, the Lord who planted us (Matt. xv. 13,) will himself care for us. He will cause his doctrine to drop as the rain, and his speech to distill upon us as the dew, as “the small rain upon the tender herb, and as showers upon the grass.” When the winds and storms assail us, when the world, the flesh and the devil, practice their destructive arts upon us, it does seem that the tender herb would utterly wilt and die. Our spiritual life seems sometimes well nigh exterminated. O, so hardened I have been through the deceitfuluess of sin! But the mercy of the Lord endureth forever, and he says, “Incline your ear, and come unto me, hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” – Isaiah lv. 3. The precious doctrine of Christ’s gospel, how reviving it is when ministered to our souls by the Holy Spirit. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain.” When faint, and drooping, and ready to die, (Rev. iii. 2,) when our hope in divine things is languid, and it looks presumptuous, hypocritical, to claim that we are the temple of the Holy Ghost, the beloved children of God, then the doctrine of Christ has been shed upon us as the rain from heaven, were a little thought, and there another sweet thought, drop upon drop, thought after thought, sweet meditation. The doctrine has come down as the small rain upon the tender herb, so gently, so sweetly, that our downcast hearts have been cheered, and our faces have been upward turned in prayer and praise and love to the God of our mercy. The world, and everything that it can afford, is not like our God. Those who are born of the Spirit are plants that need the dews of heaven. What would become of us if in our nights of soul trouble, there should be no dew to revive and comfort us? It is the speech of the Holy One of Israel, his sacred word, his precious promises, that sustain, and bring us through affliction’s night. Job, in his bitter, hot nights, without this dew was well nigh perished; but his God was very pitiful, (James v. 11,) for even then the remembrance of Jehovah’s past mercies was (though invisible, and unknown to him,) as the dew, keeping him from absolute despair. In the dark, hot, parching night, his soul mourns, and in his complaints he recounts his former blessedness, and says, “My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch. My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand.” – Job xxix. 19, 20. “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his branches as Lebanon.” – Hosea xiv. 5.
As flowers need night’s cool darkness, the moonlight and the dew, the gentle rains, and genial sunshine, so do believers in Jesus need the unceasing tender mercies of God. Our heavenly Father well knows that we cannot thrive, endure and live, unless his own hand shall care for us. When we are wilted beneath our conscious sinfulness, then our God in due time makes his doctrine to drop as the rain upon our parched leaf. O, he waiteth to be gracious, and pours forth his loving-kindnesses, and his speech distills as the dew, telling us that the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin. Then in our peace and comfort we can sing, “He restoreth my soul.”
“Much we talk of Jesus’ blood,
But how little’s understood!
Of his sufferings so intense,
Angels have no perfect sense.
O, the sufferings of the Lamb of God, to purge our guilt away. What wondrous love, what compassion there is in the bosom of God. Christ and him crucified is the balm for all our griefs. God’s voice from Mount Sinai withers all fleshly confidences and self-righteousness, but the speech of our Lord from Mount Calvary distills as the dew, and revives and saves poor, perishing sinners. As thought upon thought from the heavens of Christ’s gospel, have fallen upon a poor sinner like me, there has been such a springing up within me, that I could join with the psalmist and say, “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them. If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake I am still with thee.” Every token of the Lord’s love and mercy, revives and maintains our hope in his salvation. As the glorious doctrine of grace is unfolded by the Spirit to us, then we are built up, and grow up into Christ Jesus in all things. I cannot attempt to enumerate the precious things of Christ. Who can count the rain drops! God is rich in mercy, abundant in goodness and truth, therefore whatsoever we need, so abundant and suitable are the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, that we shall not want. “I will cause the shower to come down in his season: there shall be showers of blessing.” – Ezek. xxxiv. 26. As then the herbs of the field are dependent upon the rains and sunshine, so we only live and thrive, and bring forth fruit unto God as we are nourished and cherished by our dear Redeemer. (Ephes. v. 29.) It is a great mercy to be continually looking up to our God as the source of all our blessedness. Truly he is the fountain of living waters, and when the Lord sheds forth the blessings of his pardoning love and justifying grace, then we rejoice in Jesus’ precious blood and righteousness, by which we are presented without fault before the throne of God. The revelation to us, by the Spirit, of the excellencies of our Savior and King, is as “the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” – 2 Sam. xxiii. 4. The revived and cheerful plant lifts its face up to the sun; so we, comforted by the droppings of the truth of the gospel, lift up our countenances to behold our reconciling, smiling God. Jesus, the vision of thy face hath overpowering charms.
“His face is fair and bright,
With blushes here and there,
As mild and soft as light,
And sweet as roses are.
A single smile from Jesus given,
Can lift a drooping soul to heaven.”
I know it is a marvelous thing to hope that the Holy One of Israel is our God, and our salvation, and that we are dear unto him as the apple of his eye. (Psalms xvii. 8. Zech. ii. 8.) O, when this divine revelation has dropped upon me, then I have Jived, and amidst the consolations, praises have welled up in my soul unto him who hath loved us, and hath washed us from our sins, in his own blood. I have this morning been reviewing portions of my life in years past, times of trial, when it was very night with my soul. As I pondered over these seasons of affliction, I saw that I had been sustained in the midst of all, and brought forth of my troubles to praise the Lord, who is my friend and my salvation. As I called to remembrance these times, and mused, I saw that the truth of God rested as the dew upon my mind, distilling its sacred virtues, forbidding me to despair, supporting me to hope that God would hear my cry, and would in love to my soul grant me enlargement; that he would in his own way and time make the crooked straight, and the rough places plain. Yes, I feel it was the doctrine of God that as the dew lay all night upon my branch. But sometimes, in the darkness and obscurity of my condition in spiritual things, I look at the heavens, I contemplate, or try to contemplate, the principles of the gospel of the grace of God, but the heavens to me are as brass, the clouds of my unbelief, and of Satan’s insinuations, so intervene, my God, as a chastening to my wayward soul, holdeth back the face of his throne, and then I feel it is night indeed; for my heavens are stayed from yielding dew. The doctrine of Christ is then as a mere letter; its spirit and comfort I cannot feel; it drops down no dew upon me, therefore, “The earth is stayed from her fruit.” – Hag. i. 10. But the Lord will not forsake his inheritance; he will not suffer us to die in the hot, dark nights of our sinfulness, worldliness and temptations. His own hand shall drive away the clouds of guilt and unbelief, and be will cause his doctrine to drop as the rain, as the dew, so tenderly, so soothing to our fainting, tried and sin-plagued hearts. O the name of Jesus, what a balm, what sweetness there is in it, when whispered to us by the Comforter. A few days ago the doctrine in the following verse of a hymn dropped upon me, and I felt so revived and comforted.
“O! wondrous grace, and mystery profound,
In God’s eternal purpose I was found;
His sovereign love, his grace, his deep decree,
In some mysterious way included me.”
FRED. W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 67. No. 2.
JANUARY 15, 1899.