THE PRECIOUS THINGS OF GOD
by Octavius Winslow, 1859
THE PRECIOUSNESS OF GOD'S CHILDREN
"The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold." Lamentations 4:2
In our endeavor to evade what from conviction we deem to be erroneous, there is often a tendency to verge to an opposite extreme of error. One of the most serious and popular errors among the many by which the truth of God is assailed is, the exaltation of the Church above its legitimate and assigned position in the Christian economy. With multitudes the Church is an idol, virtually a savior. It is elevated to a pinnacle, enthroned as a sovereign, and invested with an authority and power which God never designed. Dreadful perversion of truth! In a word, the creed and the religion of numbers substitutes the Church for Christ, invades the legislative authority of God, and imposes upon the conscience of Christ's free disciples yokes which Christ's gospel nowhere enjoins. In avoiding this error we are, without due caution and study, liable to run into its opposite—the setting aside the value, the mission, and the glory of the Church of Christ altogether. Both these extremes are anti-christian and fatal. Let us endeavor to find the truth that lies midway between them; and thus walking in the middle path, hold the truth in an equal balance, finding it instructive, sanctifying, and comforting. "Thus says the Lord, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls." (Jer. 6:16.)
It is the glory of God that He has in the world A CHURCH—that it is composed of His elect, chosen from eternity, redeemed by Christ, and called by the Holy Spirit, a people gathered out of all lands, found in all Christian communions, and constituting, as a whole, an incorporate body, of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head. This body may be, as alas! it too much is, divided and sundered by differences of judgment on external and unvital points, but essentially and indivisibly it is ONE Church of God—one Family—one Bride of the Lamb—one spiritual house—and "all built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself the chief corner-stone," of whom, as such, we shall in a subsequent chapter of this work more particularly speak. Our present object is not so much to define the nature or expound the principles of Christ's one Church, as to assert its existence, unfold and illustrate its worth and preciousness. There is much sanctifying, comforting teaching involved in this truth—the preciousness of God's children. It is impossible to study it, and not rise from an admiration of the beauty, glory, and preciousness of the Church, to the transcendent beauty, glory, and preciousness of Him whose Church she is, in whose righteousness she is clothed, and in whose loveliness she is lovely. "The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold." Let us consider the title, and the preciousness of God's people, as suggested to our minds by this passage.
It is a high and honorable appellation "the sons of Zion." The world holds the Church of God very cheap. No gold, nor fine gold is it in the eye and estimation of the ungodly. And yet the world owes its existence to the Church. The Church of Christ is, instrumentally and subordinately, the world's savior. It is the conservator of the world, its salt, its light. Take out of the world all who are witnesses for God, for Christ, and for the Gospel—all who are living "godly, righteously, and soberly in this present evil world"—all who mourn for sin, who trample on their own righteousness, and trust alone in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus; in a word, all the good and holy and useful, and what remains but a mass of unmitigated evil—a world of unrelieved corruption—an empire wholly in rebellion against God, and in supreme subjection to Satan?
Thus, extract the salt, extinguish the light, sift the wheat, separate the gold, and eliminate the pure truth from the mass of error, and nothing is left but fuel for the final and fearful conflagration. This is the doom that awaits it when the last son of Zion shall have shaken its dust from his feet, and this earth shall no longer be the home and dwelling-place of the Church. Unclasp the vine that imparts beauty to, that climbs around, holds together and preserves the decayed and crumbling trunk, and it falls to dust and ruin. Thus will it be with this world when the Lord shall come and remove from it the Church which has so long been its moral preservation and its beauty. But the Church of God is His Zion, whom He loves, His dwelling place. "Jehovah-Shammah"—The Lord is there—is its name. His Church is His only home upon earth. He dwells not in temples made with hands—the gorgeous cathedral, the Gothic abbey, the costly sanctuary, the material structure, planned, reared, and adorned by human device and are. A spiritual being, He can only dwell in the spiritual. "God is a Spirit," and His temple, His worship, and His offerings must be spiritual. Therefore has He declared that His fit, favorite, and only dwelling upon earth is the humble mind, the broken heart, the contrite spirit, the empty, lowly, penitent, and believing soul. Listen to His solemn averment of this great and holy truth:—"Thus says the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things has mine hand made, and all those things have been, says the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word." (Isa.66:1, 2.) This is the house we will build to the Lord, and this is the place of His rest! Does this page meet the glance of such a one? Blessed saint! There rears not its proud head a structure in the universe so distinguished as you. Your soul is the habitation of Him who is the "high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy," who has said; "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit."
The Church of God, then, is His Zion. His people are denominated the "sons of Zion," in reference to the fact of the Church being the spiritual birth-place of His people. "As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." (Isa. 66:8.) "And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her." (Ps. 87:5.) The Church of God is the spiritual birth-place of His people. Every true child of God, every convert to Christ, is a son and a inhabitant of this city. He is born through the labors of the Church of Christ, he is nourished by the instructions of the Church of Christ, he is watched over and trained for heaven by the care and discipline of the Church of Christ, "who is the mother of us all." And "the Lord shall count, when he writes up the people, that this man was born there." Oh precious privilege this, to be registered among God's people, to be written among the living in Jerusalem," to be numbered with the children of God! Have you, my reader, any evidence that this is your honored place? Does your name stand upon the sacred roll of those who are "called to be saints?" What if it should not appear when the Lord "writes up the people!" Search, examine, and ascertain. Are you among the "mourners in Zion?" Do you "love her solemn feasts," and are you walking in her holy ways, your face fully set towards the Mount Zion of glory, of which John in the Apocalypse had a vision, "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father's name written in their foreheads?" If this is your present condition, the Zion of God your spiritual home, and the God of Zion your covenant God, then may you clap your hands with joy. "Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God;" and in these "glorious things" that now are, and that are yet to be revealed, you shall share. Of the preciousness of the Lord's people—these sons of Zion—let us now speak.
The Holy Spirit compares them to "fine gold." The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold." We have yet much to learn, even the most deeply instructed, concerning the preciousness and privileges of God's people. Are we not in great danger of taking divine truth for granted? Instead of sifting its evidences, searching into its blessedness, and realizing its power and sweetness in our souls, we give to it too much of a cold intellectual assent. We assume that the Lord's people are a privileged and precious people; but we little surmise how much blessedness, sweetness, and holiness is bound up in this truth—how much there is of God and of Christ in it. It is impossible, as we have remarked, to study the character and trace the history of God's Church, and not know more of the wisdom, power, and love of God. It is in the salvation of this Church that He has embarked all His glory, and has revealed Himself in a way that will fill all the celestial intelligences, saints and angels, with wonder, love, and praise through eternity. My reader, study the history of God's Church, for therein God is revealed in a volume second only in its grandeur, interest, and importance to the volume of His revealed Word. And now let us proceed to illustrate and open up the preciousness of the Lord's people—"The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold."
We begin with the groundwork of the subject—the preciousness of God's people to God Himself. The proof He has given of this is His everlasting love towards them; His eternal choice of them to salvation; His anticipation of their fall in the first Adam, and His provision for their recovery in the second Adam. Who can read the following declarations, and not rise to a lofty conception of God's estimate of the worth and preciousness of His people?—"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved." (Eph.1:3-6.) Not His election of them only, which is the spring-head of all the subsequent displays of His grace and favor, but His provision for their salvation, in the gift of His beloved Son, demonstrates God's estimate of their preciousness. Ponder the declaration of this truth—"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:9, 10.) Behold, beloved, how precious you are to God! That which God chooses, upon which He sets His eternal mind and heart, that which He secures to Himself at a sacrifice so great and costly, must be precious to Him. Upon no beings has He expended so much divine perfection, and in none has He made such illustrious displays of His glory, as His saints. All His eternal decrees and purposes—all His everlasting grace and love—all His marvelous works in time, center in this one body—His elect, redeemed Church, "to the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." His adoption of His people, in union with their election and salvation, forms another striking illustration of their preciousness to God's heart, and of their beauty in His eye. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself." "As many as received Him, to them gave He power" (or privilege) "to become the sons of God." (John 1:12.) "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" (1 John 3:1.) "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:6.) What more shall we say? Can anything add to the proof of God's estimate of the worth and preciousness of His people? He has loved them, chosen them, adopted them, saved them; and in each one and all of these successive demonstrations, He has declared to the universe how dear to His heart, and glorious to His eye, are "the precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold." In this Zion of His love and choice He dwells, displays the tokens of His especial favor, and shows forth His greatest glory. "For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation; and her saints shall shout aloud for joy." (Psalm 132:13-16.) And in the assurances He has given in His revealed Word of their ultimate and eternal glory—the final, full, and certain gathering together of all His children in their "Father's house" above—He has put the climax to the evidence of their worth and preciousness. "And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels" (or, special treasure); "and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him." (Mal. 3:17.) Well may God challenge His people, and say, "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?" (Isaiah 5:3, 4.) When a God of infinite resources says He could have done no more, oh, what a stupendous, marvelous, overwhelming demonstration have we of the preciousness of His Church to His heart!
Thus far have we contemplated the Church of God in its collective form. But all that Zion is to God as a Church, it is to Him in its individual capacity,—"The precious sons of Zion." Each son of Zion is equally precious to Him as the whole. It cost Him as much love, as much power, as much grace, as much glory to save one sinner, as to save His whole elect Church. Who, then, can decide how dear you are to the Father? your person, your love, your obedience, your service, your offerings, regarded as His especial treasure, and as accepted in the Beloved? Angels are not so near or so dear to God as you. Their music is not so melodious as your poor, faltering praises. Their persons are not so glorious to Him as yours, clothed with the righteousness of His Son. Their tributes of adoration and glory are not so fragrant to Him as your sacrifices offered in faith and love, all-perfumed with the atoning merits of Jesus. He has pardoned your sins—has justified your persons—has provided, in Christ, for your necessities—is schooling and training you, by the hallowed discipline of the covenant, for the many-mansioned home He has provided, and Christ is preparing for you; and you shall dwell in His presence, and swim in His love, and bask in His glory through endless ages. Child of God! Son of Zion! is not this enough?
Equally precious are the "precious sons of Zion" to the Eternal Son of God. How shall we attempt to vindicate and unfold the love of Christ to His people—the great and costly proof of that affection which He has given? Who can fathom its depth, scale its height, or measure its length and breadth? That which is infinite is measureless; that which is eternal is boundless. And yet, though we may not compass its dimensions—for it is "a love that passes knowledge"—we may "know the love of Christ." For the affection He bore us He voluntarily espoused our cause in eternity—bound Himself in an unalterable covenant to accomplish our redemption, and, travailing in the greatness of His power and love, finished it. His love made Him willing to become incarnate, to assume our curse, to bear our sins, and to suffer and die in our stead. Rising from the dead, He completed our justification; and ascending up on high, He passed within the veil, "now to appear in the presence of God" as our Advocate and Intercessor. There is no other object upon earth that engages the thoughts or fills the heart of Jesus but His people. His presence, invisible and noiseless, yet real and powerful, perpetually surrounds them. Where the Kingdom is, there is the Sovereign; where the Body is, there is the Head; where the Church is, there is Christ. "Lo, I am with you aways, (literally, all days,) even unto the end of the world." For the accomplishment of the number of His elect, He preserves the world in existence—makes and unmakes empires—puts down one; and raises up another—is guiding the deliberations of cabinets—is employing all human agencies—and is overruling every event and circumstance in the history of this vast universe.
But how precious to Him are the sons of Zion in their individual relation and history. Is there one who has ventured to appeal to His love—to trust in His grace—to accept His salvation, who is not more dear and precious than all the angels in heaven? Oh, how precious to Him the tear of godly sorrow—the touch of trembling faith—the look of lowly love—the offering of sincere gratitude—the yearning and longing of holy desire! So precious to Him are they, His ear is attentive to their faintest cry—His thoughts are never withdrawn from them for a moment—His hand is ever extended to support, and those who touch them touch the apple of His eye. So precious, He sits at the fountain of grace to supply all their need—He bows His shoulder to their heaviest burden—He unveils His heart to their deepest sorrow; and in all places where they dwell, fulfils in their experience the beautiful prediction of the prophet, "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." O believer, live not without a deep, constant realization of your preciousness to Christ, and of the depth, tenderness, and constancy of the love He bears towards you. All your present holiness, happiness, and support, springs from your believing apprehension of this fact, that you are precious to the heart of Jesus. Let your faith grasp it, amid the varied phases and changes of your Christian course, and it will be as a sweet flowing stream gliding and sparkling by your side all through the sandy desert, imparting swiftness to your feet in travel, strength to your hand in labor, nerve to your arm in battle,—soothing, reviving, and refreshment to your spirit when sad, faint, and drooping by the way. The Holy Spirit, testifying to your soul of the love the Savior bears you, will remove all that constraint, shyness, and following Him at a distance, which too much characterizes the bearing of so many of His disciples. Be assured of your personal interest in Christ, of your place in His affections, of your home and sanctuary in His heart, and no act of obedience, of love, or of service on your part, will be too costly. Your love to Him will be the inspiration and reflection of His love to you, proportioned in its degree and intensity to the vividness with which His is seen and realized. Nor for this alone would we love Him. Apart from all that He has done, and is doing now, Jesus challenges our admiration and affection. His personal worth, His official work, His glory, and His government, all demand our profoundest homage. This He receives from celestial beings, who, not having sinned, need no repentance, and not having fallen, need no Savior; and this He will receive, in that day when to Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess; how much more is He worthy of it from those whom He has redeemed with His most precious blood! Reader, has your eye seen His beauty? has your heart bowed before His cross? have you fallen at his feet? and have you crowned Him Lord and Sovereign of your soul? Oh, what is Christ to you—despised, hated, and rejected?—or, adored, loved, and welcomed? Have you received Him, not as a helper, but as a Savior—not as a model, but as a Redeemer? Is He all in all to you? If so, then doubt not your preciousness to Him. "I love those who love me." If His name is as ointment poured forth to your soul, it is an evidence that He has set you as a seal upon His heart and upon His arm, and will wear you as an ornament forever.
Not less precious to the Holy Spirit are the children of God. It must be so, since He has renewed, sanctified, and made them His temple. The work of the Spirit is as essential to our salvation as the finished work of Jesus. There is in many a tendency to regard it as less important, and consequently, with proportionally less reverence and interest. Individuals who would shrink from holding a view of Christ's Atonement derogatory to the essential value and glory of that work, or calculated to neutralize its power, have yet been found to entertain views of the Godhead and work of the Holy Spirit, the effect of which has been to veil the glory of His divine person, and render nugatory His regenerating and sanctifying operation. And yet it is just as fatal an error to believe in the dogma of Baptismal Regeneration—the antagonistic error to the work of the Spirit—as to believe in the dogma of the Mass—the antagonistic error of Christ's sacrifice. So essential, then, is the work of the Spirit in the heart of the regenerate, so divine, holy, and efficacious is it, that all in whom it is wrought, however feeble and obscure it may be, are to Him "the precious sons of Zion." So glorious and so precious to Him is the new creation of the soul, the universe has no beauty, no grandeur, no sublimity in His eye in comparison of it. Dwelling in the soul, He guards with a sleepless eye that new creation which His own Divine power and skill has wrought, and which no inward corruption or outward assault shall ever destroy. Precious to Him is every spiritual desire, every heaven-sent thought, every holy aspiration, every feeble, languid, yet sincere hunger and thirst of the quickened soul after righteousness. All your grateful remembrances of God, all your loving thoughts of Jesus, all your breathings after Him, all your pantings for deeper sanctification, your daily and sore conflicts with sinful desires, and wandering thoughts, and vain imaginations; your infirmities in prayer, your derelictions in duty, your failures in service, your falterings in obedience—all, all are cognizant to His unslumbering eye. And but for His indwelling, His ceaseless vigilance and divine power, this flood of evil, this whirlwind of passion, would upheave the foundations and carry away the edifice of your faith and hope. But the Holy Spirit is enshrined in every believer, and He guards this blood-ransomed, grace-won, and heaven-kept soul night and day, lest any being or anything hurt it. Oh that our hearts may bow in profounder adoration before this Divine Spirit, and ascend on the wing of more ardent, glowing, praiseful love to Him—listening to His voice more attentively, grieving His heart less frequently, and obeying His promptings more implicitly, who has wrought so great, so holy, so indestructible a work in our souls!
"The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold." By this figure the Holy Spirit seeks to illustrate the relative preciousness of the Lord's people. Their clothing is costly, it is of "wrought gold," even the righteousness of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Their ornaments are costly, "comparable to fine gold," even the graces of the Spirit—"love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance"—awakening the admiration of those who have a spiritual discernment of their beauty: "Your cheeks are lovely with rows of jewels, your neck with chains of gold." (Song Sol. 1:10.) This commendation of the Church, which is the commendation of all the Lord's people, is all the more precious, since it follows her own humiliating confession of unworthiness—"I am black." When the believer is low in his own eyes, he is exalted in Christ's. We are never more lovely in His view than when we appear the most unlovely in our own. These words of her Lord teach that though His people have many infirmities, yet there is exceeding great loveliness to be seen in them—they are "comparable to fine gold." There is, too, a plurality of ornament in the believer—not one jewel, but "jewels;" not one chain, but "chains of gold." The graces of the Spirit are not solitary and isolated, they are always conjoined and blended with others. The grace of imputed justification is a cognate grace of imparted sanctification, never separated in the believing soul. He who has one grace has all graces. How minutely does God describe the beauty with which He adorned the soul in conversion, and this is the distinguished condition of every true believer in the Lord Jesus—"I decked you also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon your hands, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel on your forehead, and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head. Thus were you decked with gold and silver." (Ezek. 16:11-13.) Let us select one or two of these spiritual ornaments, as illustrating the preciousness of the believer to Christ.
How precious to Him is your love. Sincere love is precious, even as a human affection, find it in what heart you may. What must be His estimate of divine love in the human heart whose essence is 'love?' Oh, with what ineffable delight He gazes down upon a soul pulsating with a holy, divine affection towards Himself! Can you, beloved reader, say, "Lord, though I am the chief of sinners, the lowest of Your saints, unworthy to loose the shoe-latchets of Your disciples, a poor backslider, a slow traveler, a dull learner, a rebellious child, yet You know that I love You, that You are the sovereign of my affections, the beloved of my heart; that I am in covenant with You, Your child, Your servant, one of Your precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold?"—then, beloved, your affection is inconceivably precious to the Lord.
How precious to Him is the obedience of His people. The loving, prompt obedience of a child—how grateful to a parent's heart! There is not an evidence of the sincerity of filial love more true or precious. The loving child is the obedient child; he obeys because he loves. Such is the test of love our adorable Lord—"the everlasting Father" of His people—has demanded. If you love me, keep my commandments." The Lord delights in the obedience of His people. He loves it above any other evidence of love. "To obey is better than sacrifice,"—the most rare and costly you can lay upon God's altar. One holy precept observed, one divine law obeyed, one lowly cross taken up, one cherished sin laid down for Christ's sake, has more of fragrance and acceptance in it to Jehovah than the most glowing, blinded zeal that ever bore a martyr to the stake. Beloved, in this spirit of filial love, search and study the commands of Christ, the laws and institutions of His kingdom, the precepts and examples of His gospel. Tamper not with convictions, do no violence to conscience, resist not the teaching and promptings of the Holy Spirit. If, on a careful research into God's Word, and a faithful examination of your own walk, you discover a command unobeyed, a precept unobserved, a self-denying cross from which, checked by the fear of man, you have shrunk, beware of a persistent course of disobedience! Oh, by all the love you profess to the Savior, walk in obedience to His commands! They are not grievous, but pleasant; they are not arbitrary, but loving; they are not optional, but binding. Essential they may not be to salvation; essential they are to a holy and happy walk. We have already cited obedience to Christ as the test of love. Our Lord, on the same principle, has made conformity to His precepts an evidence of Christian discipleship. "Whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." And, as if to win our reluctant hearts to obedience, in another place He emphatically says—"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Soon you will have done with the judgment of this poor world. With your head pressed upon a dying pillow, and with eternity slowly rising upon your view, human opinion will weigh but little with you then. Oh to meet the Savior as a loving disciple, as an obedient child, bearing the "marks of the dying of the Lord Jesus," the scars and chafings of the crude and heavy, yet blessed cross, borne for Him! It will then be of little moment whether you ruled an empire, or swept a crossing; wore a mitre, or served the Savior in the most obscure and lowly sphere of His Church. Found in Christ, standing "complete in all the will of God," you will hear the plaudit and receive the welcome of your Lord and Master—"Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your Lord."
As belonging to the blessed number of the sons of God, remember that filial and cheerful acquiescence with His parental will is a distinctive feature. The precious sons of Zion are known by their submission to God. It is for this that they are chastened and disciplined, tried and purified; that, comparable to fine gold, they may emerge from the furnace a pure and holy reflection of the Divine image. This is the great secret of repose amid restlessness, calmness amid agitation, confidence amid dark providences,—the will brought into complete subjection to the Divine will,—the heart beating in unison with Christ's heart. The moment you are led to see that all is right, that God has done it, and that it must be well done, you are happy. There is no happiness—not a moment's—in opposing God. Fretting against His dispensations, murmuring at His disposals, fighting against His dealings, resisting His providences, tossed amid the waves of second causes, is just the uplifting of the flood-gates of all distress into the soul. But to lie down at His feet, as the wheat His hand has sifted,—to repose in His heart, as the child His rod has smitten,—to drink the cup His love has mingled, exclaiming, "Not my will, O my Father, but your be done!"—this is happiness indeed! You tried, afflicted sons of Zion, not less precious to the heart of Jesus are you because you are chastened. You have argued against yourselves, and have pleaded against God from the afflictive dispensations of His providence. You have deemed yourselves cast out of His heart, and out of His mind, and out of His sight,—"reprobate silver," and not "fine gold,"—because He has cast you into the "furnace that is in Zion." Listen to the language of one who thus reasoned, but soon discovered how false that reasoning was "I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Your eyes: nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried unto You." (Ps. 31:22.) Be not hasty in the conclusion you draw from God's dealings with you. Wait patiently until He unveils the purpose, and clearly shows you the end of the Lord. "Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you that hope in the Lord." Oh the blessedness, the quietness, the perfect peace of a cheerful acquiescence in the will of God! To have a blended will, a united heart, a submissive spirit with Him in His government of you, is to be like God. There is nothing more divinely assimilating and Christ-like. To be like Christ in Gethsemane is to be like Christ in the glory of His throne. To drink the cup in His spirit of profound submission, is to reign with Him forever and ever. The Lord pardon where we have cherished the least rebellion against His dealings,—when we have refused to drink the cup; when we have thought Him hard, and harsh, and arbitrary,—when we have, in our ignorance, supposed we could have devised, and planned, and arranged with more skill and wisdom, and with a happier result than He! May the intercession of Jesus on our behalf avert the correction which our murmuring, repining, and rebellion have evoked! May the sprinkled blood blend every thought, and feeling, and desire with Jesus!
"I did You wrong, my God,
I wronged Your truth and love;
I fretted at the rod,—
Against Your power I strove.
"Come nearer, nearer still;
Let not Your light depart;
Bend, break this stubborn will;
Dissolve this iron heart!
"Less wayward let me be,
More pliable and mild;
In glad simplicity
More like a trustful child.
"Less, less of self each day,
And more, my God, of Thee;
Oh, keep me in the way,
However rough it be.
"Less of the flesh each day,
Less of the world and sin;
More of Your Son, I pray,
More of Yourself within.
"Here molded to Your will,
Lord, let Your servant be;
Higher, and higher still,
More, and still more like Thee!"
It would be an imperfect close of this chapter were the spiritual reader not reminded of the animating truth, that among the "glorious things" that are "spoken of Zion, the city of our God," is the future glory that awaits all her "precious sons." The latter-day glory of the Church, the new Jerusalem of the saints, the return of all the scattered children of Zion in triumph and joy to their final and eternal home in the new earth all radiant with righteousness, with a new heaven smiling from above, presents the most animating and sanctifying prospects that ever unveiled to mortal eye. The COMING OF THE LORD JESUS in personal majesty and official glory to make up His jewels, to perfect the number of His elect, to gather together in one the scattered sons and daughters of Zion, and to present them in their essential and visible unity, "a glorious Church," to the Father, as His Bride, is the one all-revealed, all-consoling, all-inspiring, all-sanctifying hope of the saints. "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto those who look for Him shall He appear the second time without a sin-offering unto salvation." With a hope before you so blessed and assured, what a motive to believers—what an incentive to devotedness—what a reason for watchfulness—what a bond of unity! What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness! What separation from the world—what crucifixion of sin—what unreserved consecration to Christ—what wakeful vigilance—what patience in suffering—what meekness in persecution—what communion with the Invisible—what vivid realization of eternal realities, should trace and track our every step towards the full consummation of our bliss! The Lord is at hand! Christ is coming! The Bridegroom is putting on His royal robes! The Bride is longing for His coming! All things indicate the nearness of His approach! The snow-clad mountains of this wintry, dreary world are already edged with the golden streaks of the up-rising Sun. Soon will that Sun appear in its full, its meridian splendor. "Let me go, for the day breaks!" Sin—enchain me no longer! world—attract me no more! creatures—leave your shrine, and loosen your hold upon my affections! sorrow, suffering, trial—your hours are numbered! My Redeemer is coming! My Beloved is hastening! My Lord will soon appear, and receive me to Himself! "Let me go, for the day breaks!" "In a little while He that shall come will come," for "the night is far spent, the day is at hand." Then will the magnificent vision of the Apocalypse be realized, "I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Sons and daughters of Zion! on, then, and still on, praying, fighting, toiling, suffering, enduring, hoping, for "the morning comes." Then, "the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
"Savior! if of Zion's city
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Your name.
"Fading is the worldling's pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show!
Solid joys and lasting treasure,
None but Zion's children know."
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